Indiana Supreme Court hearing bus fees case

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Indiana Supreme Court justices quizzed lawyers in a school busing fee case about the limit of the state's constitutional guarantee of a free public education.

The justices heard from lawyers Monday in a challenge to Franklin Township school district's establishment of transportation fees during the 2011-2012 school year. The Court of Appeals decided this year that the Marion County district violated the constitution when it allowed an outside contractor to charge families for bus service.

The court's decision could have broad consequences for cash-strapped school districts throughout the state as they look for additional funding. Nine out of 10 property tax referendums were approved this year.

State law does not directly address bus fees. Justice Steven David pointed out that if lawmakers wanted free busing they could have mandated it.

The Franklin Township district outsourced transportation in 2011-2012 to a private company that charged parents fees. The state appeals court ruled that state law required districts to provide free bus service.

District Superintendent Flora Reichanadter argues that if that's the case, Indiana should be required to fully fund transportation.

Reichanadter told The Indianapolis Star she hopes the case will press the Legislature to offer relief to school districts strapped by property tax caps.

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