Court: School districts can’t charge for bus rides

(WISH Photo, file)
(WISH Photo, file)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that a Marion County school district acted unconstitutionally when it indirectly charged fees for students to ride buses to school.

The 3-0 ruling said that the state constitution and state law prohibit school districts or their contractors from charging a transportation fee for general education, although they can charge for transportation involving extracurricular activities.

The Franklin Township district tried to reduce its financial losses due largely to property tax caps by eliminating free bus service for the 2011-2012 school year after a tax referendum failed.

The decision led to protests from numerous parents and long lines of cars at the district’s schools as many parents decided to drive their children to school rather than pay the fees.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said in an advisory opinion in November 2011 that the state constitution prohibits school districts from charging transportation fees for students to receive public education, and that the districts cannot charge the fees indirectly by outsourcing bus service.

In 2012, Indiana lawmakers made it illegal for school districts to stop providing bus service, but allowed them to refinance their debt.

An attorney for the southeast-side Indianapolis district says the ruling is being reviewed.

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