Indiana school district that ended bus routes faces lawsuit

An Indianapolis woman is suing a suburban school district that has stopped running school buses.

Lora Hoagland filed the lawsuit against the Franklin Township schools this week in a Marion County court.

The district this summer sold its buses to an education cooperative that now provides transportation. Hoagland is disabled, but like thousands of other parents, she drives her two sons to and from school because she can't afford the nearly $50-per-child monthly fee.

The lawsuit first reported by WRTV argues that the cooperative is an agent of the school district and that Indiana's constitution makes it illegal to charge for bus transportation. The attorney general's office is currently reviewing the setup.

Other school districts in Indiana are considering a move similar to Franklin's.

District superintendent Walter Bourke said the school district believes it's on "solid legal ground." He also said a decision against Franklin Township could force the district to eliminate transportation entirely. But he expects legislators next year to consider a law that would require school districts to transport students — a law he said could force struggling districts into bankruptcy if it passes.

That's money many stressed districts just don't have, due in large part to years of heavy spending on building projects followed by property-tax caps passed by the Indiana Legislature in 2008. Schools' transportation budgets, along with school bus replacement and capital projects, are funded entirely from property taxes.

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