In a legal opinion piece issued on Monday, Indiana Attorney General Gregory Zoeller wrote that the legislature has not provided school districts with the specific authority to charge a bus rider fee and, therefore, fees are unconstitutional.
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INDIANAPOLIS — In response to a request from the Indiana Board of Accounts, Attorney General Gregory Zoeller has issued a legal opinion on school districts statewide charging bus rider fees.
At issue was Franklin Township Community School Corp.’s plan to begin charging $75 per student this fall for bus rides. The state Board of Accounts asked for guidance regarding the proposal, 6News reports.
In the opinion piece, Zoeller wrote that, “The legislature has identified transportation of school children as a part of what would constitute a uniform system of public education in Indiana. The governing body of a school corporation is required to provide transportation under some circumstances and authorized to provide transportation for its students otherwise. The legislature has not provided the governing body of a school corporation with the specific authority to assess, charge, or collect a school bus rider fee from the students of the school corporation.”
Zoeller goes on to conclude that a school bus rider fee is unconstitutional. To read the opinion piece in full, click here.
Zoeller’s opinion is not a legal decision. The Attorney General’s office provides legal advice to help in understanding specific state statutes, policies and procedures.
However, 6News reports that following the release of the opinion piece on Monday, Franklin Township Community School Corp. will forgo its plan to charge students, but it may also cut its school bus service altogether.
Walter Bourke, the district’s superintendent, said that if the district loses an anticipated $10 million in property tax revenue, it may no longer be able to offer transportation services.
"It appears that our only option at this point is to transport every student for as long as our current funds allow us to do so," Bourke said in a statement. "We will do everything in our power to economize and seek efficiencies to keep our transportation system functioning throughout the current school year and hope for a successful operating referendum in May of 2011."
Even if the referendum passes, Bourke noted that the funds wouldn't be available until 2012.