Baltimore parents offered $250 to transport students amid nationwide bus driver shortage

BALTIMORE — Baltimore area parents could receive a $250 stipend for driving their children to school, the latest incentive being floated as a nationwide school bus driver shortage adds another speed bump to an already rocky back-to-school start.

A reimbursement form, obtained by WBFF,-TV confirmed the stipend amount for qualifying students, and a Baltimore City Schools spokesperson confirmed that the families of 771 students received the offer.

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Thirty bus drivers called out of work on Aug. 30, the system’s first day of school, the TV station reported.

According to NPR, a recent survey indicated that half of student-transportation coordinators nationwide characterized their system-specific bus driver shortages as “severe” or “desperate.”

Curt Macysyn, executive director of the National School Transportation Association, called the shortages unprecedented.

“This back-to-school period is nothing like the previous periods we’ve seen,” Macysyn, whose organization conducted the survey alongside two other trade associations, told NPR. “In previous years, we’ve seen regionalized driver shortages, but nothing to the extent that we’re seeing today.”

According to the news outlet, about 10% of Chicago’s roughly 700 school bus drivers quit abruptly over the district’s new COVID-19 vaccine mandate, leaving some 2,100 students, slightly fewer than half of whom are in special education, unable to get to school. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh public schools notified families that they were short nearly 650 bus seats ahead of Friday’s start date.

Parents are not the only ones being offered incentives, however.

Mona Shores Public Schools in western Michigan is offering new school bus drivers a $2,500 sign-on bonus if they apply this fall, and a $500 “finder’s fee” is available to any district employee who recommends successful new hires, reported.

Meanwhile, the 10,000-student Lansing School District offered families who assist with their students’ transportation a choice between monthly $25 gas cards and unlimited Capital Area Transportation Authority bus passes for their efforts, the news outlet reported.

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