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Indiana attorney general: School bus fees illegal

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Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said Thursday that it's unconstitutional for school districts to end free school bus service by turning transportation over to outside agencies.

Zoeller also said in the non-binding legal opinion that he will ask the official state auditor, the State Board of Accounts, to review a suburban Indianapolis district's transportation arrangement that charges parents fees for children to ride buses to and from school. The Franklin Township Community School Corp., citing budget troubles, sold its buses to an education cooperative that now charges as much as $47.50 per student per month to provide transportation.

"Under Indiana's Constitution and statutes, a public school corporation cannot charge fees for students to ride a bus to school to receive the public education to which they are entitled. The school cannot charge bus fees directly, and they cannot charge bus fees indirectly by outsourcing the driving to a third party," Zoeller said.

Zoeller said he researched the issue at the request of state Sen. Patricia Miller and Rep. Mike Speedy, both R-Indianapolis, who requested analysis and guidance for possible legislation to address the situation.

Franklin Township Superintendent Walter Bourke issued a statement saying administrators were reviewing the legal opinion with their attorneys. The district contends it is not involved in the contract between parents and the bus service.

The mother of two Franklin Township students sued the district over the bus fees last week, and her attorney said he planned to seek class-action status on behalf of about 8,000 families in the district.

Franklin Township contracted its bus services to Central Indiana Educational Service Center, which charges parents $47.50 for the first child per month and $40.50 for each additional child per month to bus students to and from school.

Zoeller's opinion said Indiana law would allow parents independently to contract jointly with bus drivers to provide transportation if the school district did not, but said that was not the case in the southeast side district. He the school board contracted first with the cooperative and then imposed the arrangement on parents, and that was unlawful.

Zoeller said if a State Board of Accounts audit finds that the school district has appropriated or used funds without legal authorization, his office could try to recover the money from the responsible parties.

"It is easy to understand how financial constraints might lead school corporations to difficult funding choices, which in turn have unintended consequences. Many parents who cannot or will not pay the unconstitutional school bus fee are now forced to drive their children to and from school," Zoeller said. "However, the option chosen by Franklin Township Schools cannot be justified and should be discontinued."

Zoeller issued a similar non-binding opinion last year that districts couldn't directly charge bus fees.

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  • http://www.tax-laws.org
    How is it that just anyone can write a weblog and get as popular as this? Its not like youve said something extremely impressive –more like youve painted a quite picture more than an issue that you know nothing about! I dont want to sound mean, here. But do you really think that you can get away with adding some quite pictures and not really say something?
  • Who owned the buses then and now?
    Who owns the buses now? Did the school district sell the buses to the private company for one dollar? That should not be allowed. School admin selling off assets that were paid for by tax payers?!. Again, this practice should be not allowed.
  • bah bye
    Don't let the door hit you in the arse!
  • What about textbooks?
    Could someone explain the difference between charging students for transportation and charging them for textbooks, as Indiana has always done?
    And as far as "free" goes, the AG seems to forget that you pay from one pocket (taxes) or another (fees), but they're both from the same pair of pants!
  • So, how do they do an about face?
    If the money is not there, and they have to start the busing again--------who will they pay for it?
  • Saving Money
    Franklin Twp. could save quite a bit of money by reducing the income on the 36 Administraters here. Their total income for last year was 4 million dollars. It's public records look it up.
  • Learn how to spell
    For all of you that commented, it is "busing" with only one "s", not two.
  • Nice digs
    Franklin Township does have a great monument for an athletic field on display. It may be empty in a few years, but it will still be on display.
  • You made your bed...
    ...now go to school in it. Today's "republican mindset," since someone mentioned it, is that taxes are not necessary, just evil. So the whole state voted to hobble itself with a property tax cap as though there were no lesson to be found in California's ongoing, decades-old fiscal debacle. Franklin: take a leaf from the book of West Lafayette (bunch of pinkos by Franklin County's standards, aren't we?). Within five months of the cap taking effect we took up a collection to keep the teachers and then voted ourselves a tax increase by a 2:1 margin to keep our schools going. As taxation power is taken from the state and federal government it devolves to local authorities (this is what you wanted, ne?). And so does the responsibility for providing the services that taxes pay for. Trickle-down that, friends. The AG is just doing his job. Perhaps Franklin Co. voters ought to have thought less about their pocketbook and more about the relationship between local government and community, and then decide whether to preserve and support the central role of public schools in the American community.
  • let's see if you cry
    Let's have all the school districts end bussing for students and we will see if you cry then.
  • Busing
    I understand that it is the attorney general responsibility to interpret the Indiana Constitution, but he is not understanding what took place. From what I read it does not say a school district is required to offer bus service, only that if it does it should be free. The Franklin school district is following the letter of the law...it is not offering bus service. The district is allowing a private entity to offer bus service. And there is no law that a private entity cannot charge for its services. It think its great that he solidified Franklin school districts point.
  • Not FTCSC's fault...
    As a parent with two children in the FTCSC who's now paying monthly for bussing I can say that in all fairness Franklin twnshp did warn parents that bussing was on the cut list and would be the 1st thing to go if the referendum didn't pass. I agree that is highly frustrating to have to pay monthly for bus fare, but it's not like I'm paying that money to FTCSC. My contract is with CIESC and that's who I pay. Everyone wants to bame the schools for not doing this or not doing that, but no one wants to actually do anything that would be part of the solution.
  • people Of Indianapolis
    Last one to leave this god fore saken place please turn out the lights! What!!! duke already cut the electricity, well that figures!
    I have lived in a few other mid western states and Indiana is by far the worst!
    • Not FTCSC's fault...
      As a parent with two children in the FTCSC who's now paying monthly for bussing I can say that in all fairness Franklin twnshp did warn parents that bussing was on the cut list and would be the 1st thing to go if the referendum didn't pass. I agree that is highly frustrating to have to pay monthly for bus fare, but it's not like I'm paying that money to FTCSC. My contract is with CIESC and that's who I pay. Everyone wants to bame the schools for not doing this or not doing that, but no one wants to actually do anything that would be part of the solution.
    • !?
      Overpaid administrators...yes, there is so much money to be made in schools these days, it's almost like working on Wall Street.
    • Self defeating
      This is the republican mindset for state officials. If you wonder why it costs so much here is why:

      Elementary = 7 acres plus 1 acre per 100 students (max)
      Middle/Junior High = 15 acres plus 1 acre per 100 students (min)
      High = 20 acres plus 1 acre per 100 students.
    • Cry a River
      Parents should have kept school districts more honest the past 10-15 years. No one goes to the meeting except teachers and old people. You get the government you deserve. Over paid administrators and useless academic programs have bled school districts dry. Pony up the money or take your kids to school. It's your child and your responsibility, not the government's.
      • Brilliant.
        Since schools aren't legally obligated to prvode bussing at all, all this will do is make it even harder on the parents, since the schools won't be able to facilitate bussing now. Nice job, Franklin Township, for digging yourselves into this hole.

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