The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled against a Marion County school district Thursday, saying it violated the state constitution by indirectly charging fees for students to ride buses to school.
The Franklin Township Community School Corporation eliminated free bus service for the 2011-2012 school year, in an attempt to reduce financial losses. The district contracted busing services to a private firm, who instituted an annual fee. Families could either pay a fee of $40 to $50 per student each month to ride buses or provide their own transportation to school.
At the time, administrators said this was the only way to regain a $16 milion shortfall caused by statewide property tax caps.
The fees spurred a lawsuit from a Franklin Township parent, and the case made its way to the state Court of Appeals. The Associated Press reports the court ruled that Indiana state law and the state’s constitution prohibit school districts and their contractors from charging transportation fees for general education. Districts are allowed to charge for transportation if it involves extracurricular activities.
Indiana law requires public school districts to provide transportation to school for foster children, homeless children, and even for students who attend private schools and live along bus routes.
Franklin Township has tried to raise property taxes to recover some revenue for schools, but voters have shot down the school district-led referendums. Other schools have faced similar struggles: In Decatur Township, school officials said they would have to suspend bus service if a tax-increase referendum did not pass.
Voters passed school referendums to boost Decatur Township Schools, Eminence Schools and Mt. Vernon Community Schools in this year’s primary election.
An attorney for the Franklin Township district says the ruling is being reviewed.