Indiana Says No More Bus Fees

Last Updated: July 23, 2010

This article appeared in the July 2010 Rural Policy Matters.

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A just-published Attorney General’s opinion states that charging students school bus fees violates the Indiana State Constitution because it is a form of tuition. Attorney General Greg Zoeller said that transportation has been defined as part of the uniform system of education and that funding transportation is the sole responsibility of the school corporation (Indian’s term for district). In 2006, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that mandatory fees charged to all students were unconstitutional, which Zoeller cited in his opinion letter.

The State’s Board of Accounts Examiner asked for the opinion after Franklin Township, one of Indiana’s largest corporations made plans to charge the fees to help offset budget cuts. Currently approximately 10% of Indiana districts charge bus fees.

Other states have implemented school bus fees over the past year, some reaching $300 per student. Indiana school officials have indicated they plan to examine other cost-saving measures in transportation including limiting routes and reducing the number of bus stops.

In 1988, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a school busing fee for low-income children in North Dakota. See “No Small Matter: Kagan, Stevens, Marshall and a Rural Child Named Kadrmas” for more information.

Indiana’s tax caps on local revenue collection has contributed to the school budget crisis and many districts are reaching a “circuit breaker” provision which limits the amount of property taxes they may collect.

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Read more from the July 2010 Rural Policy Matters.