Judge rules in favor of Franklin Township on school bus fee lawsuit

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Parents who sued the Franklin Township Community School Corporation over its "pay to ride" busing program won't be getting their money back.

The cash-strapped school district implemented the plan for the 2011-12 school year after two referendums to raise money through property taxes failed. Franklin Township turned over its bus service to a non-profit, which charged parents $47.50 per child per month to ride the bus.

Parents Lora Hoagland and Donna Chapman sued the district over the fees, but on Thursday, Marion County Superior Court Judge Theodore M. Sosin ruled in favor of the school district, saying, "Indiana law did not require Franklin Township to bus its students during the 2011-2012 school year. Thus, there was no corresponding constitutional duty for Franklin Township to breach."

The lawsuit claimed that charging for the bus service was unconstitutional.

"I am relieved that the court ruled in favor of the Franklin Township Community School Corporation, and we can finally put this issue behind us," said FTCSC Superintendent Dr. Flora Reichanadter. "From the beginning of this journey, the school board and administration's actions reflected the district's desire to protect classroom instruction while dealing with significant financial challenges. This ruling also reinforces how carefully the district weighed the impact of every cost-cutting measure, and that it did not violate the Indiana constitution in its effort to continue providing award-winning education during a fiscal crisis."

Meantime, new bills passed this year in Indiana allow school districts to refinance their debt without a referendum, and also prohibit districts from charging fees for transportation. School corporations must prove they're in "financial duress" to use the debt restructuring statutes.