Source: New York Times
Amid back to school season, states across the country are facing a severe shortage of teachers and bus drivers. According to a report by USA TODAY , all 50 states have seen at least “one instance of a major school bus driver shortage” so far this year.
Large school districts like Wake County Public School System is being impacted the most, as 17 routes have vacancies; leaving more than 2,000 students without a school bus.
“To say that we’re not gonna have a bus for every kid in the district is more than unacceptable, it’s embarrassing as the largest district,” stated Monika Johnson-Hostler, a school board member during a work session.
School bus driver shortage is not new. In 2018, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction reported to the Republican-led General Assembly on the issue of school transportation, as school districts were facing the same problems as they do now.
Bus drivers and education advocates have raised alarms over the impending shortage as state Republicans failed to pass meaningful investments towards public education, year after year.
The failure to pass adequate pay raises and investments towards public schools has not only impacted bus drivers, but teachers, school administrators, and many others.
“It also impacts … our ability to recruit and retain good mechanics as well,” Marlon Watson, transportation director for Johnston County Public Schools, told EducationNC. “So I think the salary is definitely an issue. But it’s an issue for multiple positions.”
“$15 an hour, four hours a day, isn’t livable anymore,” Watson added.
According to EducationNC, at the start of the current school year, there were more than1,300 school bus driver vacancies in North Carolina. For context, around 14,100 school buses run in the state each day, EducationNC reports
“The bus driver shortage in North Carolina is real and challenging and in almost every district statewide,” Katherine Joyce, executive director of the North Carolina Association of School Administrators, told EducationNC.
Education advocates have urged legislature leaders to make meaningful investments as designated by the Leandro Comprehensive Plan, in addition to increasing certified bus driver trainers, and waiving application fees for every applicant.