School's Bus Fee Angers Parents

Nonprofit Will Charge Franklin Township Parents

In the wake of a failed referendum, Franklin Township Schools has hired a nonprofit group to provide bus transportation this fall, at a price.

The school board voted Monday night to lease the district's buses and transportation facilities to the Central Indiana Educational Service Center, which will charge an estimated fee of $55 per student per month.

Last year, the district pursued charging for transportation, but the Indiana Attorney General's Office issued an opinion calling the fee unconstitutional.

Superintendent Walter Bourke has declined 6News' repeated requests for an interview, but in previous correspondence has told Kenney he wanted to find a way to offer transportation.

"A third party may be able to charge parents a fee," Bourke wrote in a June 10 email to 6News. "The attorney general has opined that school districts may not."

The attorney general's office did not offer an opinion on the district's decision to hire a company that will charge a fee.

"The attorney general's legal opinions are non-binding, but they are intended to provide legal advice to our state government clients," said spokesman Bryan Corbin. "Beyond that, our agency cannot elaborate upon such legal opinions or speculate on how other entities who are not our law clients might interpret them."

Some parents are upset with the plan to charge for busing.

"That's outrageous. I think that's terrible," said Pat Fossum, a grandparent of two children in the district. "I think it's a right children have, to ride the school bus. I don't think they should charge them."

"I have three children … and I don't know what I'm going to do. It's frustrating," said parent Robin Danz.

Some taxpayers have questioned why the district needs to charge parents for busing when it has $17 million in its rainy day fund.

"(Bourke is) doing everything he can to punish the parents if they didn't pass the referendum," said taxpayer Janice Gearries. "I don't think this is necessary. "

Central Indiana Educational Service Center will hold informational meetings next month. Enrollment begins July 11.

"Parents in Franklin Township requested a transportation option for the 2011-2012 school year. We are very pleased to be able to offer parents a low-cost alternative," Executive Director Mary Ann Dewan said in a news release. "We want to commend the Franklin Township Community School Board for their concern and desire to search for creative solutions for their community."