Many school districts are dealing with a second year of school bus driver shortages, while some areas have seen improvements in hiring.
Monetary incentives have become the new normal in an effort to recruit school bus drivers. In Houston, Texas, officials are offering a $2,000 sign-on bonus. Near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the bonus is $4,000. Los Angeles, California, is paying drivers $5,000, and near Sacramento, school bus drivers can earn up to $10,000 if they stay on with the district for 18 months.
Sign-on bonuses, increased pay, and new recruitment strategies have paid off in some cities. In Nashville, Tennessee, they raised pay by $5 an hour.
In other Tennessee school districts, and many other locations across the country, pay for school drivers is now around $20 an hour. Drivers are also getting paid training and guaranteed full-time hours.
While some school districts are offering incentives, others are having to reduce school bus routes, change school start times, create new walking zones for students, and pay families to cover transportation.
In Anchorage, Alaska, school officials considered asking the National Guard to help with bussing children, but the idea was quickly squashed. Instead, Anchorage went to a rotating bus route suspension schedule, leaving some families on their own for transportation for six weeks at a time.
In Massachusetts, where the National Guard was called in last school year to help drive children to school, things have improved. The same transportation vendor that trained soldiers last year has hired recruiters to find more long-term drivers. This year, the state doesn’t anticipate needing any extra help.