Franklin Township Community Schools and any other school district in Indiana will not be allowed to charge school bus after Gov. Mitch Daniels signed into law a bill prohibiting the practice.
The bill, HB 1134, goes into effect July 1. It bans school districts from charging parents bus fees for all regular, home-to-school transportation. The law applies to districts that provide transportation in-house, contract with a private bus operator or, as in the case of Franklin Township, contract with educational service centers. The bill also states that parent supplemental transportation contracts do not apply to transportation provided by an educational service center. However, schools may continue to charge fees for extra-curricular activity trips.
Daniels also signed into law a second bill that aims to help schools with financial problems due to property tax caps. These two laws together change Franklin Township’s transportation policies and will prevent other districts from implementing such a policy.
Last year, Franklin Township decided to contract bus service with the Central Indiana Education Service Center starting with the 2011-2012 school year due to budget shortfalls. As a result, parents had to pay close to $50 a month for a child to ride the bus to school or to opt out and determine on their own how to get their children to and from school.
Some parents decided to pay the fee, but others, such as Lora Hoagland, decided to take their children to and from school. In November, Hoagland filed a lawsuit against Franklin Township over the fees. She is seeking restored school bus service with no additional fees and restitution for the money she and other parents have spent taking their kids to and from school.
The lawsuit is currently awaiting a judge’s decision for class-action status. Tom Blessing, one of the attorneys representing Hoagland, said the two new bills do not affect anything related to the lawsuit.
“We’re still seeking compensation for parents who either paid the bus fees or had to make other arrangements to get their children to school in 2011-2012,” he told STN.