September 10, 2019

Changes in pay, policy may be required to address school bus driver shortages

While most school districts are required to provide transportation for their students, the issue of transportation is growing more complex and can be one of the major financial drains on a school district. If school districts provide their own transportation, as most do, they must wrestle not only with finding enough qualified school bus drivers, but also with bus maintenance, optimizing school bus routes to provide the greatest efficiency, and ensuring student safety. In an effort to cut costs, some urban schools are turning to public transit or mass transit partnerships, especially for older students. However, the use of public transit has been linked in some studies to higher absenteeism rates and can create safety issues especially when students have to travel through high-crime areas. And in rural areas, public transit is not a viable option.

This means that most school districts need to hire school bus drivers to meet their needs. But it is often hard to attract and retain bus drivers because the pay is generally lower than they could earn as truck drivers, which are also in high demand. School bus drivers often work split shifts, rising early in the morning and then returning to transport students home from school. And because of their part-time status, they usually do not receive most of the benefits that full-time employees enjoy.

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