DE lawmakers push pay raise to tackle current bus driver shortage

DELAWARE – “We’re still obligated to make sure we get them to and from every day,” Tidwell said.

That obligation now faces challenges with the current bus driver shortage impacting school districts across Delaware.

Indian River School District Transportation Supervisor Shawn Tidwell says pay may be one of the biggest reasons for the lack of drivers behind the wheel. “Most of our drivers work between 4 and 5 hours,” Tidwell said. “They could go make more money working a. 7.5 hour day making less per hour.”

A solution could be on the horizon, as the General Assembly’s Joint Finance Committee looks to designate $11.7 million to increase the hourly rate for bus drivers to $21 an hour. The current hourly rate stands at $15.92. “And it’s not something you can afford to take for a low pay because you can’t just have this as the side job necessarily. This for many people is their main job and therefore they need to be paid well,” Delaware Senator Laura Sturgeon said.

The funding is apart of a $16.9 million package aimed at addressing recommendations by the Public Transportation Committee. $3.8 million will be designated for administrative expenses and $1.4 million to increase the basic maintenance allowance.

Tidwell says the district is currently looking for four drivers and those vacant seats create a domino effect for other issues. “Cause we do have buses that have not been on the road all year because we have not been able to put drivers in the seats,” Tidwell said.

“We’ve had to load our buses to the max and it increases capacity and increases ride time.”

Lawmakers I spoke say although there’s no single fix to the issue, they hope this moves shows recognition. “I hope this increase in pay will make them feel even more appreciated and encourage them to stay and continue transporting our students back and forth from school,” Senator Sturgeon said.

Indian River School District also says their contractors are looking into providing health care benefits for employees as another incentive for recruitment and retention.

We must also note that this is just a proposal and the measure must be voted on by the full General Assembly as part of the fiscal 2023 year budget before it’s comes in effect.

Categories: Delaware, Education, Local News, Money