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Opening Arguments

Free, with fees

Thanks to a legal opinion from Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, some of Indiana's Larry, Darryl and Darryl school corporations won't be able to do just anything for a buck:

Charging a fee to ride the bus to a public school violates the state's constitution, Indiana's attorney general said Monday.

The advisory opinion might be good news for cost-conscious parents. But experts predicted it might push some cash-strapped school districts to reduce bus service or eliminate it altogether for most students.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller likened bus fees to tuition and said such a fee violates a student's right to a free public education.

Indiana's consitution says the General Assembly must provide "a general and uniform system of common schools wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all." School book fees are not the same as "tuition" -- that's what school districts have contended and Indiana courts have agreed -- so parents of elementary students have had to shell out $100 to $200 a year on average, and high school students in some districts have had to shell out as much as $400.  But Zoeller says a bus fee is like tuition.