Our View: Bus drivers a key part of education
In today’s standardized test-based environment, education has become almost singularly focused on what occurs inside the classroom, even sometimes minimizing the importance of extracurriculars and nontraditional learning opportunities.
Although test results are certainly important, this myopic view fails to account for the importance of what occurs in getting children to and from an educational facility.
Recent analysis has helped shine a light on a challenge the Clark County Public Schools and many other districts across the state and nation have faced for years: finding and keeping good bus drivers.
Gone are the days of seeing the same bus driver guide children to and from school throughout their educational career. The average tenure of a bus driver in Clark County is less than four years.
Clearly it is a challenging job and an often stressful one that requires laser-like focus on what is going on inside and outside of the vehicle.
Couple that with the fact that, in many districts, bus drivers are part-time positions, have a starting hourly wage of a little less than $11 per hour and do not come with health benefits and it is clear why it becomes difficult to keep individuals in this role.
Compounding it even further is the fact that many school districts pay for bus drivers to earn their CDL licenses only to see them walk away a short time later for a more lucrative transportation job elsewhere.
There is no simple solution.
Even if Clark County and other school districts facing these challenges threw lots of money at the problem — funds most don’t have — there is no guarantee that would solve the problem.
Likely it will take creative, outside-the-box ideas to find remedies and solutions. This will require everyone involved from educators to parents to government officials to be open minded and willing to break away from decades of tradition. Could bus drivers be utilized in other capacities within districts to create full-time positions? Maybe that includes maintenance, janitorial, information technology, clerical, instructional aides or other jobs that are typically performed by classified employees.
Could a staggered schedule be created to allow fewer bus drivers to transport the same number of students? This would allow those remaining positions to become full–time and address many of the financial concerns with keeping individuals for longer periods of time.
Are there public/private partnerships that could be developed that would allow school districts to use professional drivers from public transportation systems, specialized driver services or other entities like churches that also have a vested interest in the safe, professional transportation of people.
Maybe this partnership could include developing a better public bus system for seniors and those who are unable to have their own transportation.
Nothing will ever happen here or elsewhere until we fully acknowledge there is a problem and recognize the fact that what happens to our children on the way to and from school has a direct impact on their ability to learn.
There are no easy answers, but our children are worth us all asking the hard questions.