RACINE COUNTY — A conservative legal group is again threatening to sue the Racine Unified School District over busing issues, this time regarding fees charged to late-enrolling private school students.
The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty argues that a $300 busing fee for private school students who enroll after July 1 is unconstitutional. Unified officials have said the policy was created to offset costs of private-school transportation.
WILL said Wednesday it has told the district that it has until Nov. 13 to change the policy or else it will file claims in court.
“Of course, if a child chose to attend Racine Unified Public Schools, then they can expect free transportation regardless of when they enroll,” CJ Szafir, WILL education policy director, said in a statement emailed to The Journal Times. “Racine Unified’s decision to deny only those children who attend private school equal access to transportation is a violation of the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution and state law.”
A spokeswoman for Racine Unified said it has been working with private schools to resolve busing cost issues and hopes those efforts are not upended by a lawsuit.
“We have been working with the Archdiocese and the private schools to find a resolution that addresses private school transportation concerns while allowing us to control the high costs RUSD absorbs to provide the service,” spokeswoman Stacy Tapp said. “At this point in time, we are working to implement that resolution.
“So, we are surprised to hear of this possible legal action. We don’t want this to hold up our efforts to resolve this situation.”
WILL, Unified spar
WILL said it was retained by three parents who attend a private school in the Racine Parental Choice Program but that the policy affects dozens of children. The group said the district is required to transport all children in public or private schools — subject to geographic limitations — and receives state funding to offset transportation costs.
Unified requires private schools to submit a roster by July 1 of students the district will bus to and from school that year. District officials have said they are not legally required to bus any student not on that list, and that private-school students are more expensive to transport in part due to longer distances buses must travel to get to schools.
It’s the second time this year WILL has threatened Unified with legal action over transportation issues — the group said in February it would take the district to court for ending bus services at Renaissance Schools. The district and Renaissance later reached an agreement.
WILL has also threatened to sue over the district’s employee handbook committee.