I am addressing our school bus drivers and attendants. These hard-working individuals are definitely underpaid and undervalued.
The safety and lives of our precious children are in the capable hands of these people.
While the starting pay for drivers is over $12 an hour, they receive no health benefits, no sick days, or paid holidays. When Manatee's school district hires new drivers, they are considered "substitute school bus drivers."
They are not substitute drivers, they have permanent routes as soon as they finish training. By hiring them under this heading, the school district is avoiding paying benefits.
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It is time to pay our drivers a livable wage and provide them with benefits.
The drivers are subject to erratic work hours, due to driver shortages. Currently the office staff of the transportation unit are regularly driving routes to ensure our students get safely to and from school.
Even with the office staff driving, many bus routes are running late since there just are not enough drivers to cover all the routes.
Why should student education have to suffer due to lack of bus drivers?
The parents of Manatee County school children, as well as Manatee County property owners, should be outraged at the persistent shortage of school bus drivers.
There must be incentive to attract and retain qualified drivers. Some districts use a quarterly incentive of $50 for any driver and attendant with perfect attendance. An incentive to current Manatee school district employees to refer applicants who are subsequently hired is another option.
While this may initially look like an unaffordable option, what is the ultimate cost of professional staff working as drivers while their own jobs are neglected?