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State Supreme Court Weighing Costs Of School Busing

Larry Darling

Does the Indiana Constitution require public schools to offer free transportation to their students?  That’s the question being considered by the state Supreme Court. 

Indianapolis' Franklin Township school system eliminated its busing service three years ago, saying property tax caps had squeezed the school corporation’s finances. 

The system hired a private firm to run its buses and the firm required parents to pay a fee.  One of those parents sued the township school corporation, and while a trial court sided with the schools, the Indiana Court of Appeals sided with the parent, landing the case before the state Supreme Court. 

Attorney Ian Thompson, representing the parent, says the Indiana Constitution mandates that the state must provide a uniform school system available for all -- and that depriving children of a way to get to school violates that mandate.

“Transportation is a fundamental…has become and has evolved into a fundamental part of a free and public education,” Thompson says.

But attorney Sam Laurin, arguing on behalf of the school corporation, says the legislature gets to decide what public school systems must include.

“And in this case, the legislature – through clear statutory language at the time that this dispute arose – made it clear that school corporations may, but are not required to, bus all students,” Laurin contends.

The Supreme Court justices did not announce a timetable for their ruling. 

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