Sunday, August 14, 2022

Baltimore Co. bus drivers call out again in protest


School bus problems are mounting in US schools, and administrators and parents are scrambling to try to get students to and from school safely.

In Baltimore County, Maryland, the state’s third-largest school district serving about 115,000 students, 89 bus drivers called out in protest Friday and 77 called out today, WMAR-TV (ABC affiliate) reports.

“It’s very stressful, it’s another stress, it’s another worry, and I think the schools are doing the best they can and the bus drivers, they just need help,” the station quoted one parent as saying. “Everybody just needs help, and they need to just make it work, because in the end the kids are suffering. They’re missing school in the morning when the buses don’t come.”

BCPS school officials warned parents

The Baltimore County Public Schools sent the following letter to parents Friday, after the first day of mass call outs:

Dear Parents and Guardians:

We have learned that some Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) bus drivers and bus attendants may organize a ‘call out’ that will impact school bus service [this] week. We want to make you aware of the possibility of disruption to transportation services for BCPS students so you are prepared to provide a different form of transportation for your child if there are any interruptions or delays.

BCPS is working to hire additional drivers who will help fill in the gaps and cover several routes. Additionally, on Tuesday, November 9, we announced with the county government plans to boost recruitment and retention of school bus drivers. Under this new plan—which is just one of many actions the system is taking to address this shortage—BCPS is offering cash rewards, sign-on bonuses and retention bonuses. Baltimore County government will cover the costs of fingerprinting for bus drivers and attendant applicants and provide funding to address other pre-employment barriers.

We know that these call outs are extremely disruptive and impact our ability to provide timely transportation service to the BCPS community. We will continue to work together to find solutions and address needs.

Please know that BCPS will be monitoring the situation all week and will provide you with updates if routes can’t be covered or buses will be late. If you do plan on driving your child to school, please be prepared for longer drop off and pick up lines. Thank you for your understanding and patience as we continue to navigate the challenges of this nationwide bus driver shortage.

In other states, school bus drivers and dispatchers for Minneapolis Public Schools voted unanimously Saturday to go on strike if they can’t get what they want through mediation, the union said in a release, the Associated Press reports.

The dispute for about 100 Minneapolis Public Schools bus employees represented by Teamsters Local 320 is over pay, safety, and retention because of a shortage of drivers.

“If the District doesn’t increase its economic offer and address the other significant issues we’ve put on the bargaining table we have been authorized to engage in a full-scale work stoppage with active picket lines and ambulatory pickets at the schools,” the AP quoted union spokesman Brian Aldes as saying in a statement.

In Maryland as well, it often comes down to pay.

“Dump-truck drivers, Amazon drivers, even DoorDash drivers make more, and without the additional stress of having a bus full of school kids,” 92-Q Radio quoted Erin Appel, of the Maryland School Bus Contractors Association, as saying.

“On average, school bus drivers in Maryland are currently being paid, on average, $19 to $20 an hour, which is considerably less than other Class B commercial driver’s license holders.”

Local officials in Howard County, between Baltimore and Washington, recently found $2 million to support school bus drivers, Patch report in Ellicott City noted. This came after about 100 bus routes were interrupted a week ago in a staged “sick-out,” WJZ-TV (CBS affiliate) reported.

“There’s nothing appealing to drive a school bus anymore,” the station quoted a bus driver in the county as saying, expressing in a few words the dissatisfaction with the job that is being felt by many people who now work for the schools in some capacity.

But we can design all the math and social studies units we want. If we can’t get kids to the school buildings and their classrooms, it’s all for nothing.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.


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