Oct 20, 2021 - News
Columbus offering bigger bonuses for school bus drivers
The front of a school bus
Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call Inc. via Getty Images

Bonuses up to $2,000 are coming for Columbus City Schools bus drivers and other non-teaching employees as part of a new two-year agreement with their union that school board members approved Tuesday.

Why it matters: The move is the latest example of school districts across the U.S. trying to entice and retain workers amid a labor shortage. Locally, Licking Heights and South-Western schools are also offering similar bonus programs.

Details: The bonuses will be paid out in $500 installments over two years, using federal COVID-19 relief funds.

Threat level: Columbus has just over 600 drivers, but 555 are "active daily drivers," district spokesperson Jacqueline Bryant tells Axios.

  • There were 765 drivers in 2019.
  • Earlier this year, the district considered using public COTA buses to make ends meet but instead reduced its offered routes from 700 to 560.

Yes, but: That can result in longer ride times for students already affected by the driver shortage.

What they're saying: "Parents are upset because we're running late and buses are running behind, but we're giving everything 150% of what we have," Lois Carson, president of the district's non-teaching employees union, tells Axios.

  • "We're doing our darndest to keep schools up and running."

Driving the news: While the "great resignation" is impacting industries everywhere, the issue is compounded for bus drivers.

  • There were 15% fewer bus drivers nationwide in May 2020 than in 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • They work irregular hours for a median pay of $16.67 per hour.
  • A commercial driver's license is required, so hiring is a tedious process, though Gov. Mike DeWine announced last month that Ohio was prioritizing background checks for drivers.
  • Many drivers are older, so they're at greater risk of COVID-19 complications.

Flashback: Columbus increased hourly pay for bus driver trainees from $11 to $18.50 in June. Starting pay is $19.88 an hour.

  • Bus drivers and all non-teaching employees got 3% raises this year and will get 2.25% raises next year.

💭 Alissa's thought bubble: This is a tough problem and I'm not sure there's an easy solution. Even before the pandemic, districts everywhere were competing for the same shrinking talent pool.

  • Given that dilemma, I'm surprised the district and the union couldn't come to an agreement sooner. Their contract expired Aug. 31.
avatar

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Columbus.

🌱

Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Columbus stories

No stories could be found

Columbuspostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Columbus.

🌱

Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more