INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Leaders of a suburban Indianapolis school district don't intend to restore free school bus service unless a court orders them to do so, despite the state attorney general's stance that the action was illegal.
The Franklin Township district faces a parent lawsuit seeking to overturn its decision this year to turn its bus service over to an outside agency that now charges as much as $47.50 a month per student to provide transportation.
School district attorney Charles Rubright said Wednesday night after a private session of the school board that the board would defend its decision in court.
"We think this is an issue that is very important because there are some other school corporations who are about six months behind us, about ready to do this," Rubright said. "This needs to be resolved once and for all by a final judicial determination."
The 9,000-student district decided to get out of the transportation business after voters in May rejected a referendum to raise property taxes to help close an $8 million budget shortfall and the state attorney general's office said it would be unconstitutional for it to charge a fee for bus service.
The decision has led to protests from numerous parents and long lines of cars at the district's schools as many parents decided to drive their children to school rather than pay the fees. At least one other central Indiana district is contemplating a similar money-saving move.
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said in an advisory opinion last week that the state constitution prohibits school districts from charging transportation fees for students to receive public education and that the districts can't charge the fees indirectly by outsourcing bus service.
Franklin Township Superintendent Walter Bourke said he expected the district's school board would vote next week to authorize defending the fees in court.
"We do not anticipate that there be a motion to, in any way, alter the strategic plan that we've implemented to balance our budget," he said.