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Indiana lawmaker says school bus fees increase danger

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Indiana's public school districts wouldn't be able to end school bus service for their students under a proposal advancing in the General Assembly after protests from parents in a suburban Indianapolis district who now face annual bills of more than $400 a child for rides to and from school.

The fees started in the Franklin Township district last fall after voters rejected a referendum to raise property taxes to help close an $8 million budget shortfall and the district turned its buses over to an outside agency that now provides transportation — leading some other districts to consider a similar money-saving step.

Republican Rep. Mike Speedy, whose Indianapolis district includes the Franklin Township district, told the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday that not only can many families not afford to pay the fees, there has been a great increase in traffic around schools as many more parents are driving their children and more students are walking along roads without sidewalks.

"As a result of charging fees, you create a dangerous mix of cars and students and buses in the morning when it's dark, when it's snowy," Speedy said. "It's just a matter of time before someone gets hurt."

Speedy argued that school districts are prohibited from charging bus fees and that they shouldn't be able to bypass that law by following Franklin Township's example of turning its transportation services over to an educational services cooperative controlled by it and other districts.

Franklin Township officials didn't speak during Wednesday's legislative hearing, but have maintained their decision is legal despite an opinion from the state attorney general's office that the district's action violates the state constitution and a lawsuit filed in November by a parent challenging the fees.

District Superintendent Walter Bourke has said that a law requiring school districts to transport students could force struggling districts into bankruptcy.

School officials say many districts around the state are facing budget troubles due in large part to statewide property-tax caps passed by the Legislature in 2008. Schools' transportation budgets, along with school bus replacement and construction projects, are funded entirely from property taxes.

Messages seeking comment were left for Bourke and the school district's attorney

The House voted 92-2 last week in favor of banning the bus fees. The Senate committee is expected to vote next week on whether to advance the proposal to the full Senate.

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  • IL; experience
    When my family moved to Illinois because of a job change, we were told that school bus rides were not free. The school corporation accept bids from companies in that business thereby keeping the costs reasonable.
  • too many buses
    Public schools are designed for socialization first and education second. Other than safety in the school, there's really not much beyond that that they should be their responsible for. Parents should be able to handle the transportation situation.
    Fueling and maintaining all those buses eats up a lot of cash. Kids used to walk to school much more than they do now. Just because they ride a bus doesn't mean they won't get kidnapped, beat up or bullied.
  • Busses
    Yeah, again: Which would you prefer a school provide: A) great teachers in a reasonable learning environment, but no transportation; B) reasonably good teachers in a great learning environment but no transportation; C) Mediocre teachers in an average learning environment, but free transportation; D) Great teachers teaching under the old apple tree but free transportation provided; E) Great teachers in a great learning environment bot no free transportation? Can't have 'em all under present financial strictures. And the voters in Franklin Township chose the limit on money. If the legislature wants to mandate bus transportation, then the legislature needs to FUND that mandate. It's that simple. We get enough unfunded mandates from the Feds as it is - in fact way too many unfunded mandates... but that's another topic.
  • Hmm
    Where was this line of thinking when the legislature hurried through - at the urging of the insurance company lobby, and on no evidence that it matters - the new law delaying the driving age to 16 1/2 (meaning more parents drive kids to school) and also delaying the time when kids can drive each other (meaning more kids drive to school separately)
  • todays bad students
    these parents of today have taken the free education for granted . else their kids would not come to school abusing and insulting staffs , and teachers on a daily basis , throwing dangerous objects at teachers etc mocking adults . and at the same time they children underperform academically . may be if you guys paid from your pockets , a stiff fee , you will make sure that they excel academically and also have their behaviors in check .
    All the same i am for free education , but parents of nowadays should start paying serious attention towards proper parenting of their children
  • Safety is not the issue
    I've heard the reason why kids can't walk to school is because schools have been sued by parents whose children were molested and bullied on the way to and from school. I'm not positive on that, because there is a neighborhood next to my daughter's school that has a sidewalk inside the community to the school. Kids are always walking to school through there, but I think most of them are still accompanied by their parents.

    I laughed last fall when Franklin Township had these traffic jams. For one thing, it proves that no matter what kind of threats and tactics the school district wanted to pull on the parents to get their money, people will always find a way around it. Not only that, the fact that the district sold the rights to an asset for $1 shows that they have absolutely no fiscal sense whatsoever.
  • Why?
    Why do kids who live within walking distance of a school have to be bused to a school too far to walk to? I understand why kids who live in the country have to be bused, that is a choice made by their parents to live that far out, it does cost more to live in the country. I just don't understand busing in the IPS school system, why upgrade some schools, only to shut them down?

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    1. I took Bruce's comments to highlight a glaring issue when it comes to a state's image, and therefore its overall branding. An example is Michigan vs. Indiana. Michigan has done an excellent job of following through on its branding strategy around "Pure Michigan", even down to the detail of the rest stops. Since a state's branding is often targeted to visitors, it makes sense that rest stops, being that point of first impression, should be significant. It is clear that Indiana doesn't care as much about the impression it gives visitors even though our branding as the Crossroads of America does place importance on travel. Bruce's point is quite logical and accurate.

    2. I appreciated the article. I guess I have become so accustomed to making my "pit stops" at places where I can ALSO get gasoline and something hot to eat, that I hardly even notice public rest stops anymore. That said, I do concur with the rationale that our rest stops (if we are to have them at all) can and should be both fiscally-responsible AND designed to make a positive impression about our state.

    3. I don't know about the rest of you but I only stop at these places for one reason, and it's not to picnic. I move trucks for dealers and have been to rest areas in most all 48 lower states. Some of ours need upgrading no doubt. Many states rest areas are much worse than ours. In the rest area on I-70 just past Richmond truckers have to hike about a quarter of a mile. When I stop I;m generally in a bit of a hurry. Convenience,not beauty, is a primary concern.

    4. Community Hospital is the only system to not have layoffs? That is not true. Because I was one of the people who was laid off from East. And all of the LPN's have been laid off. Just because their layoffs were not announced or done all together does not mean people did not lose their jobs. They cherry-picked people from departments one by one. But you add them all up and it's several hundred. And East has had a dramatic drop I in patient beds from 800 to around 125. I know because I worked there for 30 years.

    5. I have obtained my 6 gallon badge for my donation of A Positive blood. I'm sorry to hear that my donation was nothing but a profit center for the Indiana Blood Center.

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