Indiana

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Franklin Township Schools Chief: Attorney General Playing Politics With Busing

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Traffic jams built up outside Franklin Township schools in August on the first day school busing in the district was no longer free to families.

Indiana’s attorney general has published an opinion supporting the premise of a lawsuit against Franklin Township for the district’s cancellation of bus service, but superintendent Walter Bourke is standing firm.

In an interview with StateImpact, he dismissed the AG’s official opinion — which accused the district of skirting state laws in its move to cut busing — as politically motivated.

“The attorney general is as much a politician as an attorney.  And I believe the opinion that he issued is as much about politics as it is about legal issues,” Bourke said.

Attorney general Greg Zoeller disagrees. Bryan Corbin, a spokesman for Zoeller’s office, says the AG stands by the document — which dictates the legal position of Indiana’s State Board of Accounts — as “meticulously researched.”

“This is an objective legal opinion by the State’s lawyer, researched at the request of our clients the state legislators to assist them in preparing legislation,” Corbin wrote in an e-mail.

Citing the failure of a referendum and a loss of $16 million in revenues due to new property tax caps, Bourke cut the district’s bus services entirely at the beginning of this year — which, the district contends, is allowed under state law.

The district contracted with the state-established non-profit Central Indiana Education Services Corporation (CIESC) to provide busing in the district, at an annual cost of $40 to $50 per student, per month.

“We have approved, as the law requires, contracts between parents and bus drivers. There is a statute that allows that to happen,” said Bourke.

But the attorney general’s opinion says Franklin Township’s busing contract with CIESC reflects district attempts “to do indirectly what it is prohibited from doing directly” under state law.

A lawsuit filed by a Franklin Township parent claims the district’s failure to provide busing bars access to a free public education.

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