’s attorney general said
Monday that state law doesn’t allow public school districts to charge
students a fee for taking the bus to and from school.
That could pose a problem for school districts around the state that had
been looking at the fees as one possible way to help them out of a financial
bind caused by property tax caps and a $300 million cut in state education
The opinion said school districts have no legal authority to assess and
collect a fee for transportation to and from school so a student can receive
a public education. Further, it says that transportation is part of “a
uniform system of public education in Indiana.”
“Such a fee is unconstitutional,” the opinion said. It didn’t specifically
address charging bus fees for extracurricular activities.
Molly Butters, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Greg Zoeller, said
official opinions are intended to serve as guidelines for state officials
and aren’t legally binding.
“It’s an opinion, nothing more than an opinion or an interpretation of the
law,” she said.
Dennis Costerison, executive director of the Indiana Association of School
Business Officials, said the opinion might not be binding, but it could give
ammunition to a parent who decided to sue their school district over bus
In either case, the nine-page document presents a complication for districts
like Franklin Township schools on the south side of Indianapolis, which had
been counting on charging a bus fee of about $75 per rider beginning this
fall. Districts in Hobart and Munster in Lake County already charge for
transportation, he said.
The Associated Press left a phone message seeking comment from Franklin
Township Schools Superintendent Walter Bourke.
The growing district, saddled with construction debt, had been hit hard by a
1 percent residential property tax cap that went into effect this year, as
well as the state budget cuts announced last year, Costerison said.
“They’re going to have to go back to the drawing board and try to figure out
how they’re going to take the dollars they have for regular transportation
and make it work,” he said.
Costerison said that the law doesn’