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Dysart Unified School District approves boost in bus driver pay to combat driver shortages

Bus driver shortages are a nationwide problem
school bus AP
Posted at 9:05 AM, Sep 23, 2021

Some school districts around the country are struggling to keep bus drivers, forcing the shutdown of some routes used to get kids to school. In an effort to keep bus drivers on the job, one West Valley school district is boosting driver pay.

Dysart Unified School District announced Thursday it is making a “significant increase” in bus driver pay and adding bonuses.

“The starting pay for a Dysart bus driver increased from $16.81 an hour to a tiered pay scale that starts at $20.00 an hour for those with zero to three years of experience. The rate increases to $21.00 for four to six years of experience, $22.00 for seven to ten years of experience and $23.00 for ten or more years of experience,” the district said, noting these rates are among the highest in the Valley.

In addition, current employees can receive a $500 bonus for recommending new employees that are hired and maintain employment.

The pay changes were approved at a Wednesday board meeting and will go into effect on Oct. 4.

The district says there are currently 18 unfilled bus-driver positions out of 106 total positions.

“When there aren’t enough drivers to cover all routes, buses must do turnaround runs, which can impact a students’ ability to get to school on time. Shortages also impact the availability of transportation for field trips and off-campus athletic competitions,” a press release said.

Other West Valley school districts, Litchfield Elementary School District has had to cancel some routes, and Peoria Unified School District, canceled 10 bus routes Thursday and Friday due to a shortage of drivers, officials say.

Peoria school bus routes canceled due to shortage of drivers

John Croteau, the Assistant Superintendent for Human Resource at Dysart Unified, says while the bus driver shortage isn’t anything new, it is incredibly disappointing.

“We’re starting to affect the future by not being able to transport kids and make a difference in their lives,” he told ABC15.

He says Dysart’s been struggling with this staffing shortage for a while now.

“We currently have about 106 positions total in our district and we have about 18 openings,” said Croteau.

Lorrie Henderson is a bus driver for Peoria Unified and has grandchildren in the district.

She says she is frustrated with the bus route cancellations, and what this means for her grandkids.

“I believe they’re going to have to either stay at home or I’m going to have to take them or my son’s going to have to take them,” she added.

“It’s a very disappointing situation across the board. Anytime that we have to cancel opportunities for kids or going to school for kids...it’s the most important thing we can do,” Croteau told ABC15.

Peoria Unified has canceled 10 bus routes through the weekend, affecting 16 schools. Croteau is now hoping the wage boost will help prevent the cancellation of routes in their district.

“We need help in driving the future forward,” he said.

If you're interested in becoming a bus driver, you’ll need a CDL certification, which will take six weeks of training.

Peoria Unified and Dysart Unified will both help you out with that.

Peoria Unified is giving new school bus drivers a $1,700 signing bonus, while Dysart Unified is giving a referral bonus incentive to current employees.

Click here, to apply for a position at Peoria Unified School District.

Click here, to apply for a position at Litchfield Elementary School District.

Click here, to apply for a position at Dysart Unified School District.