INDIANAPOLIS - The Indiana Court of Appeals says the Franklin Township Community School Corporation violated the State Constitution by stopping bus service for students.
The ruling handed down late Tuesday morning says transportation to and from school is part of a uniform public school system, and it's required by the Education Clause of the State Constitution .
The district eliminated student transportation for the 2011-12 school year after new property tax caps went into effect in 2010, putting a strain on school funding.
The district later contracted with Central Indiana Educational Service Center to provide bus service for students who paid an annual fee.
Tuesday's ruling could have a big impact on districts throughout the state that have been considering eliminating bus service.
Lora Hoagland filed the lawsuit three years ago when the district started charging transportation fees. Her boys are homeschooled now, but she is still passionate about the issue and she was thrilled with the court's decision.
"There are a lot of families that can't afford to pay for busing. They need to have the same opportunities as the more well-to-do class of children. It's just a win. It is unconstitutional. The constitution states that everyone has a right to a free public education. And to have that right, you have to be able to get to school. So it is a great win," Hoagland said.
The Indiana Attorney General's office also sounded off on the decision.
"The private lawyer representing the school district was incorrect and the consequences have been costly to the public," Greg Zoeller said.
Zoeller issued a legal opinion in 2011 that said school districts could not charge bus fees, even if it was through a third party.
Zoeller credits the legislature for making it clear that schools can't charge bus fees in the future. He said his opinions are meant to avoid unnecessary litigation.
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