Indiana denies Muncie schools’ bid to end buses

By The Associated Press

MUNCIE — The Indiana Department of Education on Friday denied a request from the Muncie Community Schools to end student bus service amid a budget crunch.

The department denied a waiver that would have allowed the district to stop bus service after this school year, The Star Press and WRTV-TV reported.

Indiana law requires a district to provide three years’ notice before ending bus service. The Muncie district applied to the state for a waiver in June.

The decision Friday came two months after Muncie voters rejected a property tax increase that would have provided $3.3 million for bus service.

School administrators have warned some staff could lose their jobs if the district were required to continue to pay for transporting more than 4,000 K-12 student to classes each day.

Several people told state Education Department officials at a public hearing last month that ending bus service would be dangerous for students who walk to school in areas without sidewalks and that many parents could not provide transportation for their children. Others blamed mismanagement for the district’s financial troubles.

Mark Burkhart, chief financial officer for the Muncie Community Schools, said at the hearing that he expected state officials to provide guidance on how to keep buses running in a district dealing with drastic funding cuts to its transportation fund. State officials suggested consolidating some bus routes and expanding the area where students are expected to walk to school.

Burkhart had said much of a reserve fund will be spent to keep buses running this school year.

The 6,800-student district has faced enrollment and funding declines that led its school board to vote in November to consolidate its two high schools into one.

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