ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Anne Arundel County announced a cash bonus Thursday as a way to address the school bus driver shortages occurring throughout the state.
Five thousand dollars will be given to new and current bus drivers. The money will be spread out over time but parents and students say there needs to be a solution and one that fixes the problem fast.READ MORE: Chesapeake's Crab Population At Lowest Since 1990, Survey Finds
Marcus Clavery is a ninth-grader at Annapolis High School and on any given morning, he waits for nearly an hour for a bus that sometimes never shows up.
“My hands are cold, feet are cold, my whole body is shivering,” described Clavery, who depends on the bus while his parents are at work.
“It’s getting cold, these kids can’t be standing out here and we’re not home, so what are they going to do, stay home?” asked his mother, Mildren Gibson.
But all too often, buses in Anne Arundel County don’t have anyone to drive them.
That’s why County Executive Stuart Pittman is out with cash incentives.
“They asked me to be a driver because I have a CDL license,” said Jonathan Hill, whose son is a student at Annapolis High School.
Hill received a letter from the state encouraging him to become a bus driver but his main hesitation? “What if I become a bus driver and my son needs the bus and I’m in a whole other place that I can’t get him because everybody is getting picked up at the same time,” he asked.
Pittman is dedicating more than $4 million of the County’s federal recovery funds to these bonuses.READ MORE: Park Heights “Renaissance Row” Apartment Building Opens With New Affordable Housing Units
“That is an awesome beginning but where is the rest of it?” asked Lisa Beauchamp, a school bus driver in the County. She said it’s not enough.
“Where’s the retirement fund? Where’s the raise you said we were going to receive? And the paid holidays?” Beauchamp asked.
School bus drivers went on strike in October, leaving parents more desperate.
“I want to know how they’re gonna fix it and how long this is going to go on,” said Gibson, who often picks up children walking to school when she drives her son to school if the bus doesn’t show up.
But Beauchamp says until the drivers get better pay and benefits, drivers will keep leaving their job.
“Right now, today, you can go to McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Walmart, Target and get hired and get all those things that we’re not receiving and we’re transporting the most precious cargo there is,” she said.
Current bus drivers, including Beauchamp, are planning to vote this Monday morning to unionize, in the hopes that as a union they’ll be able to better fight for more pay and benefits.
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