Questions and DPI Responses
1. Must a public school district provide transportation to private school pupils attending a private school that has not submitted a designated attendance area for approval by the board of the school district in which the private school is located?
An opinion from the Attorney General, 61 O.A.G. 240, 244 (1972), advised that a public school district is not required to provide transportation for pupils attending a private school which has no attendance area. Further, an informal Attorney General's opinion dated September 29, 1970 explained that "the duty of the district to furnish such transportation arises only when an attendance area has been agreed upon between the district and the private school, or established by the state superintendent pursuant to appeal."
2. What does a public school district do if a private school fails to meet the May 15 deadline for notifying the public school district of pupils who plan to attend the private school the following school term?
The purpose of laws which permit private school transportation at public expense is to provide this service to all pupils who qualify and to allow public schools to budget for this expense. Because the statutes permit school boards to extend the May 15 deadline, school boards and administrations from both schools should attempt to provide required transportation to all eligible private school pupils rather than to seek technicalities in the laws as a basis for refusal of transportation services. The public school board should carefully consider all circumstances leading to the failure of a private school board to meet the May 15 notification deadline before making a decision to refuse transportation.
3. Must a public school district provide transportation to private school pupils on days the public school is not in session?
An opinion from the Attorney General, 61 O.A.G. 240, 244 (1972), stated that a public school board is required to provide transportation for private school pupils attending school on days when the public school district is not in session. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals confirmed that position in Hahner v. Board of Education, Wisconsin Rapids, 89 Wis. 2d 180 (1979). It is beneficial to both the public and private school(s) in the same school district to have school calendars which are as consistent as possible.
4. Can a school district charge a fee to transport pupils to private school?
If a private school pupil is eligible for transportation in accordance with s. 121.54, Wis. Stats., the school district is not permitted to charge any part of the cost of such transportation to the pupil or the pupil's parents or guardians. [See s.121.54(8), Wis. Stats.] However, a fee may be charged to the parent/guardian of a pupil whom the school district is not required to transport if such transportation is requested by the pupil's parent/guardian. [See "Additional Transportation," s. 121.545(1), Wis. Stats.]
5. Must the public school district provide transportation to private school pupils for extra-curricular activities?
Public school districts may, but are not required to provide transportation for extra-curricular activities. [See s. 121.54(7), Wis. Stats.]
6. Must the public school district provide transportation to private school pupils enrolled in four year-old kindergarten programs?
Yes. Under sec. 115.01(2), Wisconsin Statutes, "kindergarten" refers to both 4 year-old and 5 year-old kindergarten unless otherwise specified. Since the law requiring school districts to provide transportation to eligible private school students does not refer specifically to 5-year-old pupils, transportation to 4-year-old kindergarten programs is also required. The school district's obligation to provide transportation to private school pupils is not dependent on whether or not the school district offers a 4 year-old kindergarten program. School districts have the option of providing transportation by any of the methods authorized under sec. 121.55, including parent contracts.
7. Must the public school district provide transportation during the noon hour to private school pupils enrolled in half-day kindergarten programs?
Yes. Because the law requiring transportation of eligible private school pupils refers to transportation "to and from school," the school district is responsible for noon hour transportation to and from half-day programs. As is the case with transportation to 4 year-old kindergarten pupils, the obligation to provide transportation at the noon hour is not dependent on whether the school district offers half-day or full-day kindergarten programs. School districts have the option of providing transportation by any of the methods authorized under sec. 121.55, including parent contracts.
8. Must the public school district provide transportation to a private school pupil who lives in an area designated by the school board as unusually hazardous?
Yes, provided the pupil is otherwise eligible to receive transportation under s. 121.54(2)(b) 1., Wis. Stats.. That is, in order to be eligible to receive transportation, a private school pupil living in an area designated as unusually hazardous must reside in the approved attendance area of the private school and the private school must be located within the pupil's resident school district or not more than five miles beyond the boundaries of the resident school district. Additional information relating to transportation in areas of unusual hazards can be found on the Department of Public Instruction's web site at https://dpi.wi.gov/sms/transportation/hazardous-transportation.