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York County School Division Bus Drivers Not Making Living Wages
By Nancy E. Sheppard

YCBus imageFor parents of York County School Division students, the first person in the morning and the last person in the afternoon they entrust with their child’s safety are bus drivers. However, York County School Division does not pay their bus drivers what could be considered a "living wage.”

According to studies conducted by the Department of Urban Studies & Planning at M.I.T., a living wage in York County for 1 adult without dependents is $13.47/hour. York County School Division’s starting wage for their bus drivers is $12.25/hour. These employees are contracted to work 5-7 hours per day for 182 days. Before additional deductions, such as health care and mandatory payment into the Virginia retirement program, this would be just over $15,000 per year. One bus driver we spoke to says that, after being employed by the school division for more than 15 years, she only makes $15.50/hour.

According to transportation employees, York County School Division has faced incredible challenges in retaining bus drivers while garnering new ones, many of whom choose employment with adjacent school districts that offer better pay. For example, Newport News offers new bus drivers a starting wage of at least $2 more per hour than YCSD. The employees that stay say they do so out of dedication to their students or because of their own immediate financial needs. However, many that reached out expressed that they rely on government financial assistance just to make ends meet. They also feel they cannot strike, let alone speak up on their own behalf, out of fear of financial and even employment loss. One bus driver said that when she vocalized dissatisfaction with pay, she had her job threatened.

During the 2017- 2018 school year, YCSD drivers state that there was a deficit in the number of bus drivers needed, forcing many to cover two or three routes extra per school. This lead to many buses being late, if they showed up at all. This placed an undue burden on families reliant upon school transportation. Additionally, many drivers noted giving up weekends and holidays to drive for extra pay. The bottom line is that these drivers state that they are being stretched too thin under increased pressure from the school division, for less than a living wage.

The employees relay that if York County School Division wants to retain good bus drivers while garnering new ones, they need to rethink their budget and pay a competitive wage. If not, they will continue to have difficulties keeping drivers and finding new ones.

The official reply to comment from York County School Division was not available at the time of publication. We anticipate printing their reply in next week’s Yorktown Crier-Poquoson Post.

The identities of the employees who participated in this article have been kept anonymous for their privacy.

 





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