Photo: Kolin Toney (Flickr)
A Senate committee votes next week on a proposal to ban school districts from charging a fee to ride the bus.
It is already illegal for a school system to charge a busing fee, but Indianapolis’ Franklin Township schools got around that by assessing the fee through its educational services center or ESC. Attorney General Greg Zoeller has issued an opinion that ESCs are an arm of the school district they serve, meaning Franklin Township’s fee is still unconstitutional.
Indianapolis Representative Mike Speedy says the bus fee is probably illegal already, but he wants to remove any doubt by passing a bill specifying it is not allowed.
“People, when they pay their property taxes, expect the school corporation to provide those services,” Speedy says. “That’s our policy, that’s our law. And this bill simply extends it to service centers, who are their agent under our statute as well.”
Speedy says parents resent having to pay a fee on top of their property taxes, but says the real problem is a safety issue. He says the fee has prompted dozens of parents to carpool or have their kids walk to school, and that the combination raises the likelihood someone will get hit.
Franklin Township parent Christine Bischoff agrees that the bus fee has created a safety hazard.
“We don‘t live in an area in the county where there are curbs and sidewalks and bike lanes,” she says. “We live in an area where our middle school sits in the middle of cornfields. And children are walking, in the cold, in the dark, on the sides of these roads.”
Franklin Township imposed the fee after voters rejected a referendum to increase property taxes to shore up the budget. Some parents at the Senate hearing contend the district turned off voters by threatening to cut off bus service if the referendum was not approved.
The house has already approved Speedy’s bill, with just two no votes. A Senate committee votes on the proposal next week.