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Appeals Court Says Charging For Public School Busing Is Unconstitutional

Court reverses lower court ruling that favored Franklin Township Schools

It had already been made illegal by the legislature, but the state's Court Of Appeals says charging parents for busing their students to public schools violates the Indiana Constitution.

The appeals court overturned a lower court in ruling that Franklin Township Schools violated the constitution when it handed over its bus service to a private company during the 2011-12 school year. The company, Central Indiana Educational Service Center, charged parents $475 per year to transport one child to school and $405 for each additional child. The school system said it was forced to make the move due to millions of dollars of debt and the inability to raise revenue due to caps on property taxes.

Franklin Township ended the pay-for-busing program in 2012, in part because new rules from the state allowed them to refinance some of the district's debt. But the change came after several parents filed a class-action lawsuit against the school system.

A lower court sided with Franklin Township schools, but the appellate court ruled that transportation is part of the state's public education system protected by the state constitution. The General Assembly had already passed a law barring school districts from charging for busing.

The appeals court also ruled that parents who paid for busing that year were not entitled to be reimbursed, something also found by a lower court. "This Indiana Court of Appeals Opinion addresses the legality of a bus operation that no longer exists," read a statement from Franklin Township Schools. "Other than that Opinion which closes a historic chapter, the School Corporation did not suffer any other adverse consequences. Because this Opinion addressed bus operations which are no longer in existence, no changes in the current bus operation are necessary at this time."

@WIBCRaySteele

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