Not a single industry has been left untouched by the pandemic – including the school bus industry. There is a bus driver shortage across America right now that is making it difficult for children to get to school. The situation is so dire that some schools are even offering to pay parents to drive their kids to school themselves.
Schools Paying Parents To Drive Kids To School Due To Bus Driver Shortage
The pandemic-fuelled bus driver shortage in America is causing some schools to go to drastic measures to make sure their students get to class. While some have told many students they will need to walk or begged parents to drive them, this Delaware school has told parents they are willing to put up the cash. (1)
EastSide Charter school in Wilmington, Delaware is using their unused bus driver salary budget to pay parents to do the job instead. They are offering parents $700 per child for the year to drive their children to and from school. More than 150 parents of the 500-student school have said yes.
“EastSide wants to pay you $700 for the year for dropping off and picking up each child from school (example – if you have 3 children we would give you $2,100).” the school wrote in a notice to parents. (2)
What Caused The Bus Driver Shortage?
Delaware is not alone in its lack of qualified personnel to transport students to and from school each day. Across the United States, this continues to be an issue. According to the National School Transportation Association, bus driver shortages at the beginning of each school year aren’t unusual. This year, however, it is much worse than usual due to the pandemic. (3)
Over the last year of the COVID pandemic, when the majority of bus drivers were out of work, some retired or changed careers. Others are still concerned about the virus and aren’t ready to return to work for fear of catching it. This is leaving a greater number of empty busses than the usual haul.
Some schools are also facing problems with the supply of the busses themselves. Production and delivery delays have left many districts, not just short drivers, but also short actual busses. Many potential drivers are simply finding other jobs elsewhere that pay more and have less contact with other people.
Finally, many school districts are unable to fill busses to the same capacity as before. Instead of seating three children on a bench, they can only seat two. This means each bus can only transport 48 students of the usual 72. They need more busses – but they either can’t get them, don’t have people to drive them or both. (4)
Schools currently have plenty of spare cash thanks to pandemic relief funds, but they have nothing to spend it on. They are struggling to find supplies and personnel. For this reason, many schools are offering higher pay, signing bonuses, and many other benefits to bus drivers. The hope is that these will be enough to attract people to the job.
“We offer great benefits, but there can be disadvantages to this job: You work a split shift so you don’t get eight hours a day. You don’t have good summer employment. So there are a fair amount of people who think the grass is greener someplace else.” said Maryland transportation director Todd Watkins.
It’s Not Just Bus Drivers
Schools are also facing a lack of supplies due to slow production and delivery, and a lack of other workers, such as supply teachers and janitors. They have the money to purchase and pay for all of it, they just simply don’t have what they need.
“There’s a labor and inventory shortage at the same time we’re increasing enrollment and hiring,” said Aaron Bass, chief executive of EastSide. “We’ve been looking like crazy for everybody you can think of: janitors, cafeteria workers, psychologists, counselors, bus drivers. Even if you have all the money in the world, you can’t get what you need.”
Of course, there is a parental concern as well. Some parents simply don’t have the capability to take their kids to and from school and also get to and from work themselves. If you’re a stay-at-home parent or a potential bus driver, have a look around – there just might be potential work out there for you this school year.
- “Amid school bus driver shortages, one school offers parents $700 to drive their kids.” CBS News. Aimee Picchi. August 8, 2021.
- East Side Charter School
- “No bus driver? Schools are paying parents to drive their own kids as economic disruptions hit classrooms.” Washington Post. August 16, 2021.
- “Schools are paying parents hundreds of dollars to drive their own kids amid bus-driver shortage.” Seattle Times. Abha Bhattarai. August 17, 2021.