The Carmel Clay School district is in the midst of a well-documented bus driver shortage. After trying to find drivers through conventional means to no avail, they have resorted to using teachers. They offered teachers up to $18K more to take on the additional responsibility of driving kids to and from school. Luckily for the students, they were able to find teachers to drive.
This is not just a problem in Carmel though. All around the country, school districts are struggling to find drivers. But why?
To some, the obvious answer is the stress and difficulty of the job. Everyone has seen the viral videos of children misbehaving on school buses or even witnessed it themselves firsthand, but that doesn’t explain all of the shortages as not every school district has that kind of reputation or problem.
The barrier to entry may also be a factor. Most places require special licenses and training to be a school bus driver. Even the teachers who volunteered to pull extra duty in Carmel had to go through extensive training which took weeks. Much of this extra training costs money and participants are typically not paid which could cause difficulty for those trying to support a family. For many people, this is a lot to go through to secure a part-time job.
Economic reasons also contribute to the shortage, not just low pay either. The relatively strong economy and low unemployment means people are having an easier time finding more lucrative full-time work with more convenient hours. It’s hard for low-paying part-time work to compete especially considering the fact when you are laid off from a part-time job it’s difficult to collect unemployment benefits.
Many suburban districts are also growing. It can be hard to keep up with the exponential growth of urban sprawl for school districts that probably were once considered small or rural. This has caused difficulty when schools are trying to secure drivers for all of the new routes they need to add each year.
One-way schools are combating the shortage is by combining routes. This leads to overcrowded buses which are more difficult to manage. Not to mention longer waits at the bus stop which is always a worry in the colder states.
There is no one cause of school bus driver shortage. It’s not clear what exactly to do to fix it either. One thing is for sure, it’s becoming a problem almost everywhere and getting worse. Providing transportation is part of the foundation of public education. The teacher shortage may be more publicized than the bus driver shortage, but school districts would be wise to take them equally as serious.