Anne Arundel Co. school board backs funding for bus driver pay increase

Anne Arundel County school bus drivers and attendants are one step closer to a $5 per hour wage increase after the Maryland district’s school board approved the budget supplement needed to fund it.

The board of education voted Monday in favor of a $7.4 million budget request to provide the school district’s transportation contractors with enough funding for the wage hike, as presented by Anne Arundel County Public Schools Superintendent George Arlotto.

An additional $2 million in American Rescue Plan funding would grant new drivers a $2,000 signing bonus paid in three installments throughout the academic year, amid an ongoing labor shortage impacting dozens of routes daily in Anne Arundel Co. and neighboring school districts.

While the county council still has to formally approve the plan, County Executive Steuart Pittman could begin distributing federal stimulus funds for the recruitment and retention bonuses immediately.

“Pittman has been clear that the county stands ready to assist our school system in solving this issue, which has been decades in the making,” Board of Education President Melissa Ellis said in a news release.

“I am hoping this funding will be approved as soon as possible so that we can get it to our current and future bus drivers and attendants and, in turn, provide our students and families the transportation services they need.”

Drivers with the Annapolis Bus Co. went on a two-day strike this month, pressing officials for fairer pay and benefits. Parents called for the school system to address the situation as thousands of children were left without a way to get to class.

Last week, bus drivers voiced their concerns directly to Pittman, highlighting broader issues like benefits and work conditions.

Driver Janell Conner said other driving gigs make up to $32 per hour. She pointed out that drivers might not be retirees driving for supplementary income, as some might imagine.

“It’s not a Wawa job,” Conner said. “I have a 19-year-old son who makes more money than I do. It’s a professional job.”

When Pittman responded to Conner’s concerns about wage by pointing out how the raises will help, Conner said: “I think, not to interrupt you, but I think a lot of people see that on paper and are like, ‘Wow, that looks great. You know, $25 an hour, that’s a great job.’ But when you realize that we only work six hours a day at 180 days a year. No, it doesn’t.”

WTOP’s Jessica Kronzer contributed to this report.

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Alejandro Alvarez

Alejandro Alvarez joined WTOP as a digital journalist and editor in June 2018. He is a reporter and photographer focusing on politics, political activism and international affairs.

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