Anne Arundel County, Maryland, schools are offering new incentives for school bus drivers, who earlier Wednesday returned to work after a two-day strike amid an ongoing dispute with the bus company.
Schools Superintendent George Arlotto is asking the school board to approve $7.4 million for next year’s budget to boost bus drivers’ wages by $5 per hour.
Arlotto’s plan also includes money for $2,000 signing bonuses to hire new drivers, and $2,000 retention bonuses for existing drivers.
The county has been struggling through a bus driver shortage, causing dozens of bus routes to be affected daily.
The bus drivers, who are demanding better pay and benefits, returned to work after a strike that started on Monday, which left parents scrambling to find ways to get their children to and from school on Monday and Tuesday.
The strike angered parents and Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman, who called on the school system to address the situation, saying that it’s on the schools to put a proposal on the table.
“To say that I’m angry and upset is an understatement, and it’s not the drivers that I’m angry at,” Pittman said Tuesday. “The drivers are at wit’s end at this point.”
Arlotto disagreed with Pittman’s remarks that the school system had not been working on a plan to address the issue.
“We have actively been working on a plan, respecting that our bus services are provided by independent vendors and their employees,” Arlotto said in a statement Wednesday night.
The school system contracts out most of its bus services, and Pittman said that part of the problem is that the Anne Arundel County bus drivers are currently locked into long-term, 12-year contracts.
“Mr. Pittman has said that time is of the essence and that he is ready and eager to help, so I look forward to his full support of this plan,” Arlotto said.
The plan will need to be approved by the Anne Arundel County Council.
WTOP’s Jack Moore contributed to this report.