Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller issued a legal opinion Thursday in response to a request by two Indiana legislators on whether school systems can outsource bus services to another entity that charges parents.
“Under Indiana’s Constitution and statutes, a public school corporation cannot charge fees for students to ride a bus to school to receive the public education to which they are entitled. The school cannot charge bus fees directly, and they cannot charge bus fees indirectly by outsourcing the driving to a third party,” Zoeller said in a statement.
The opinion comes a week after a Marion County mother filed a lawsuit challenging the decision by the Franklin Township Community School Corp. to contract its bus transportation to Central Indiana Educational Service Center for the 2011-2012 school year. CIESC charges more than $400 per student to ride the bus for the school year.
Zoeller said the Office of the Indiana Attorney General doesn’t usually release legal opinions when there is pending litigation, but Rep. Mike Speedy and Sen. Patricia Miller, both Republicans from Indianapolis, had previously requested the opinion for purposes of possible legislation and Zoeller had begun writing the opinion prior to the lawsuit being filed.
The opinion said Indiana statute would allow parents independently to contract jointly with bus drivers to provide transportation if the school corporation does not, but such a contract would then need a school board’s approval to allow access to school grounds, comply with the school schedule and follow safety and insurance requirements. That did not happen in the Franklin Township situation – the school board contracted with CIESC first and then imposed the arrangement on parents, and that is also unlawful, Zoeller wrote.
This is the second legal opinion Zoeller has released discussing fees imposed to ride the school bus. In July 2010, he found that schools directly charging bus fees are unconstitutional.