BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore City Public Schools will increase the hourly pay of bus drivers and offer retention bonuses, joining school districts around the country that have stepped up incentives during the ongoing national bus driver shortage.

Drivers will receive a pay increase of nearly $5 per hour based on experience, and starting wages will jump to $19.05 per hour, the school system said.

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The school system said it employs 25 drivers and has 36 job vacancies.

Nine companies provide yellow bus service for Baltimore City Public Schools, and each contract driver with those businesses will receive a monthly retention bonus of $30, the school district said.

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Elementary school students who live more than 1 mile from their neighborhood school are provided with yellow bus service by the district. Middle schoolers and high school students who live 1 1/2 miles from their neighborhood school or citywide school are given a One Card to ride an MTA bus.

Amid the driver shortage Baltimore, Howard, Anne Arundel and Harford counties have all announced pay increases or bonuses for drivers.

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Drivers in the region have gone on strike and staged sick outs, saying their jobs don’t provide a living wage.

CBS Baltimore Staff