INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Do Indiana schools have to supply bus transportation for all students? That’s the question that was at the heart of a case heard in the State Supreme Court Monday.
Bus transportation found itself on the chopping block in Franklin Township in the 2011-2012 school year. If families wanted to take a bus to school they had to pay an outside contractor.
The school system claimed that due to property tax caps, it just didn’t have the money to do anything else.
“They lost almost 12 million dollars in state funding in property tax revenue. As a result, and after a referendum failed, they were left with the tough choice of deciding to cut busing,” said Sam Lauren, attorney for the Franklin Township School Corporation.
A parent, Lora Hoagland, sued Franklin Township, saying bus transportation is required by the Indiana Constitution.
A trial court disagreed, ruling against Hoagland. But, the Court of Appeals ruled while Franklin Township wasn’t obligated to provide bus transportation, no matter what, families could not be charged for it.
“Not only may schools not charge a fee for busing and transportation of public school students, but they also may not discontinue it entirely without violating the mandates of the Indiana Constitution,” said Ian Thompson, Hoagland’s attorney, arguing his side at the Supreme Court hearing.
Chief Justice Loretta Rush asked Thompson, “So what you want us to do, is to read into the educational clause, a constitutional right for public transportation to schools throughout Indiana.”
“Yes, Your Honor,” said Thompson, who went on to say, ” because transportation is essential to a free and public education.”
Thompson’s claim was questioned by the justices, who implied the law gives the Indiana legislature the final say on whether bus transportation is required.
Lauren, Franklin Township School District’s attorney, “The Indiana legislature has determined that school corporations may, but are not required, to bus all students.”
Since this case was filed, the Indiana Legislature passed a new law saying that school districts can not charge for bus transportation.
The law doesn’t require that districts provide it for all students.
The case is under advisement and a ruling is expected in 2015.