Appeals court: Franklin Township's bus fees unconstitutional

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled that Franklin Township's decision to discontinue student transportation in 2011-2012 was unconstitutional.

Franklin Township was hit hard by property tax caps that year and made the decision to charge parents to bus their students to school at a cost of $475 per year.

At the time, the Indiana attorney general issued an official opinion saying that public schools were not authorized to assess or collect fees for student transportation to and from school in order for the student to receive a public education. However, the school district went ahead with its plans to charge for busing.

Two parents, Lora Hoagland and Donna Chapman, filed lawsuits. A motion to dismiss the claims against the bus company was granted, and an August 2012 decision ruled in favor of the school district that the parents were not entitled to monetary damages and that the district had not violated the state's constitution.

Hoagland appealed, leading to Tuesday's decision. However, the Court of Appeals ruled that Hoagland and other parents are not entitled to get back any money they spent transporting their children to school.

The judges agreed with Hoagland, who argued that student transportation is an integral part of public education - and so the school district may not charge for it or eliminate it. Franklin Township argued it did not have a constitutional duty to transport students to and from school. The appeals court cited a change in Indiana law that now prohibits school corporations from charging a transportation fee.

Read the opinion here.