School Bus Driver Shortage Cripples America as National Guard Deployed

Massachusetts National Guard members began bus driver training on Tuesday, September 14, in an attempt to "address staffing shortages in certain districts."

A statement issued by Governor Charlie Baker's office, which Newsweek has contacted for comment, added "up to 250 personnel" could be made available and the areas of "Chelsea, Lawrence, Lowell, and Lynn" will be prioritized. The state also stressed the assignment will not interfere with the Guard's ability to respond to and assist in emergencies."

Governor Charlie Baker said: "Once it became pretty clear that there were going to be some communities shorthanded—it wasn't going to be a vehicle issue, it was going to be people with CDLs [Commercial Driver's License]—we started talking to the Guard."

Lynette Washington, chief operating officer of Baltimore City Public Schools, said she receives a call about a driver shortage "every minute."

She told Newsweek: "Our call center continues to receive many inquiries from families about transportation challenges.

"We're committed to offering assistance during this challenging time, which will continue to impact City Schools and other districts for the foreseeable future.

"We will continue to seek alternative solutions to address our driver shortage, including extending our transportation stipend to eligible families and the use of alternative vehicles to supplement the existing needs of students."

The news arrives during a dearth of school bus drivers across the country. A National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) report issued on August 31, discovered in a survey that half of student-transportation coordinators described their school bus driver shortages as "severe" or "desperate."

The report's authors add respondents believe the pandemic is responsible for much of the transportation problems.

Mike Martin, Director of NAPT Executive, which Newsweek has contacted for an update, said in a statement: "COVID continues to have an impact on education in general and school transportation scheduling and logistics in particular, the shortage of school bus drivers has become conspicuous."

National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services Executive Director Ronna Weber, agrees, adding: "[...] this year's shortage has a different feel to it."

And National School Transportation Association Executive Director Curt Macysyn added how he is "vitally concerned about the short-term implications of the shortage."

Gov. Baker activated the Ma. National Guard to help with transportation as the school year begins. 90 Guard members began training for service in Chelsea, Lawrence, Lowell, and Lynn to help students get to school safely and on time. pic.twitter.com/myBgtTEyTa

— Mass. National Guard (@TheNationsFirst) September 15, 2021

Problems in attracting and retaining skilled school bus drivers have been reported elsewhere in the country.

New York's East Ramapo School District announced on September 14, it was battling a bus driver shortage, leaving approximately a thousand students in the district without transportation.

Portland Public Schools are also facing an acute shortage of bus drivers and blame the financial pressures wrought by the pandemic for being understaffed by almost a quarter of employees.

A school district in Montana is offering $4,000 bonuses in an attempt to entice people to fill positions as children return from remote learning.

A Delaware school district has offered to pay parents $700 to take care of ferrying individuals to class, while a district of Pittsburgh has reportedly announced hundreds of children will need to start walking to school.

school buses
About 100 school buses are parked at the Arlington County Bus Depot, in response to the novel coronavirus, COVID-19 outbreak on March 31, 2020 in Arlington, Virginia. Troops have been brought in to battle a “severe” and “desperate" bus driver shortage in Massachusetts Olivier DOULIERY / AFP/Getty Images