(INDIANAPOLIS) - Some central Indiana school districts bus fees to end under New legislation are making changes in light of new legislation passed this session dealing with school bus transportation fees.
State lawmakers passed House Bill 1134, authored by Rep. Mike Speedy, R-Indianapolis, which bans school bus fees, including those charged through third-party vendors, Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney reported.
Speedy drafted the legislation after public outcry in Franklin Township when the school corporation stopped providing busing during the 2011-2012 school year, instead partnering with the Central Indiana Educational Service Center, or CIESC, which charges $475 per child.
"It passed because there's good public policy behind it," Speedy said. "Parents expect their tax dollars to go toward transportation."
Although the Indiana Attorney General has issued opinions calling bus fees unconstitutional, the new legislation clarifies that if school districts provide bus transportation, they cannot charge, even if it's through an outside vendor.
"It's a victory for the citizens of the state of Indiana that the Legislature looked at this situation and said, 'This is wrong,'" said attorney Ron Frazier, who filed a lawsuit against Franklin Township on behalf of parent Lora Hoagland against the bus fees.
"I think it's wonderful," Hoagland said. "They will have to stop charging and will bring our buses back and pick our kids up."
Hoagland and Frazier plan to continue with their lawsuit, which could become class action, in the hopes of getting parents their money back.
"The parents that have already paid a fee paid money they should never have been required to pay," Frazier said.
"What they did was illegal, and they're currently running the buses illegally," Hoagland said. "They should have to pay the price. They should be held accountable for what they've done."
CIESC told RTV6 that it will follow the law and will not charge a fee to parents next year.
"This has not been a profit-making mission for CIESC," said spokesman Rick Hightower.
CIESC provides busing to 1,900 students and has collected $787,381 in bus fees from Franklin Township parents to date.
CIESC estimates they've spent $1,048,000 so far on transportation costs including gas, maintenance and driver salaries.
"In terms of business, this has been more of a service," Hightower said.
Franklin Township Superintendent Walter Bourke says the school board will meet March 26 to discuss its options.
This session, lawmakers also passed House Bill 1192, which includes a measure that says school districts must provide the public at least three years notice if they stop transportation or get a waiver from the Indiana Department of Education.
Mount Vernon Schools in Hancock County says they will no longer cut busing due to a budget shortfall because the new legislation allows them more avenues to refinance their debt.
Bourke says it was highly unlikely Franklin Township would try to eliminate bus transportation altogether.
The governor is expected to sign both bills sometime this week.
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