This District’s Bus Drivers Are About To Strike. It’s The State’s Fault.

My district is the fifth biggest in the state serving over 50,000 students.

More than half of those students use transportation provided by the school system to get to and from their schools.

There was already a shortage of bus drivers before the school year started. It’s even an bigger shortage now.

What many people may not realize is that each driver has multiple routes in a given day. Drivers do not just serve students for one level (elementary, middle, or high), but multiple levels (elementary, middle, AND high). It’s one of the reasons that the start times for different levels of schools is staggered.

The print version of the Winston-Salem Journal carried a story about the upcoming strike on top of the fold on the front page.

Many of the drivers who are now employed have had to take on extra routes in their jobs to accommodate students. While the number of drivers is significantly lower percentage wise to what is needed, the number of students requiring transportation has not.

Fewer people are doing more work.

Telling is that at this very time the NC General Assembly still has not passed a state budget.

It hasn’t for three years. School systems are running on recurring funding levels from years ago before the pandemic.

Of course, this would put a lot of pressure on a superintendent, especially one who took over in the middle of the pandemic after the short tenure of someone who was not as invested in our schools. And what the superintendent stated about funding was correct.

It is about funding. The largest part of the state budget is dedicated to the state public school system. When the state doesn’t adequately fund the public school system, then local funding has to be used. In Forsyth County, the school system is second biggest employer in the county. The state budget affects the local budget in a big way.

But there is something about the last part of the statement that the bus drivers are actually standing up for.: being able to continue being in the job.

Yes, we stay in the profession because of the children, but only as long as people who are in education are able to make a living wage and can live on that income. Just because there might be an hourly wage at a certain level does not mean that there are enough hours of work to make that hourly wage workable.

There are many educators and people in our schools who are having to decide whether to stay in the profession and their decision does not hinge on whether they love children or not. But it’s hard to be in schools when you can’t even take care of your basic needs and the needs of a family.