School bus driver shortage? Va. Beach drivers say a raise would help

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — From school buses running late to under staffing, 10 On Your Side has reported on a number of issues affecting how your kids get to and from school.

Now, there’s an online petition circulating that calls for a $17 an hour wage for school bus drivers. In less than a week, that petition has more than 500 signatures.

Diane Ellis drove a bus for Virginia Beach schools for 14 years and loved it.

“We went through a year where all the kids got chicken pox, so there were a lot of drivers out,” she said. “But, we had drivers that were available to take over.”

Ellis stopped driving two years ago in part, she said, because of a lack substitutes to fill in. School districts told 10 On Your Side they have issues with staffing, but it’s mostly finding substitute bus drivers.

Last Friday in Virginia Beach, 65 bus drivers called out. In Chesapeake, it was 41 drivers out. Those absences are filled with a short list of subs, but in some cases, some drivers who Ellis spoke with did multiple runs for schools.

“A triple run is when you have your children, plus two other bus loads on your bus,” Ellis said.

In Virginia Beach, drivers think increased pay could bring more subs to work. Currently, Virginia Beach pay starts out at minimum of $13.67 per hour. So, they started a petition.

“With the incentive of bringing in $17 per hour,” Ellis said. “For these drivers, that might be enough.”

Of the four Southside school districts, Virginia Beach pays the most for drivers just starting. According to one official, ideally they’d like to have more than 100 substitute drivers on call, but that isn’t the case right now.

That’s where petitioners think a raise could help.

“Between city council and school board, somebody can come together and say, ‘There’s a lot of people here who agree, these drivers need this raises,'” Ellis said.

According to Virginia Beach officials, bus drivers have had two pay increases since 2006, including a 25 percent raise. The petition will go before the school board on December 20 and the city council in early January.