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'Underpaid and underappreciated' | As bus drivers push for higher wages, here's how pay stacks up locally

As school districts grapple with bus driver shortages, some employees have started protesting wages and work environments.

ARLINGTON, Va. — School districts across the DMV are facing bus driver shortages as some employees protest pay. Right now, some districts are offering higher wages than others.

Drivers with Charles and Calvert County Public Schools staged sickouts over the last couple weeks to protest pay, among other things.

On Friday, some Arlington Public Schools transportation employees protested outside the Arlington County Trades Center to demand a better work environment, more hours, and higher wages.

“Workers are pretty much tired and fed up at this point of being underpaid and unappreciated," APS Safety and Training Coordinator Christina Childress said.

She and other members of the Arlington Education Association spent hours protesting in the rain Friday.

“Working six hours a day…and being a split shift, it doesn't leave room for much part time work anywhere at all," Childress said. "And it also doesn't provide and pay for a family of four either, let alone two, so there's a lot of hardships and things taking place.”

RELATED: School bus drivers continue sick-out in Calvert County

Childress also expressed frustration that bus drivers who worked over the summer did not receive the bonuses given to teachers and support staff working summer school.

So, how does each school district stack up when it comes to starting bus driver hourly pay?

The following wages are either listed on the districts' websites or provided by a bus driver who works there.

Arlington Public Schools: $17.80/hour

Alexandria City Public Schools: $20.70/hour

Fairfax County Public Schools: $22.91/hour with $3,000 signing bonus

Loudoun County Public Schools: $22.16/hour with $2,500 signing bonus

Calvert County Public Schools: $18/hour

Charles County Public Schools: $20.12/hour with 4% raise coming after protests

Prince George's County Public Schools: $18.78/hour

Montgomery County Public Schools: $19.53/hour

Drivers, however, say it's more than dollar discrepancies causing them to protest -- it's how they're valued.

“Somehow we've continued to fall to the bottom of the totem pole, when it comes to not only recognition and compensation," Childress said. "So we're just fighting for those things.”

A spokesperson for Arlington Public Schools shared the following statement in regards to the bus drivers' demands:

"Our bus drivers have shared their concerns with us during recent meetings and we are working to address the concerns related to compensation and workplace climate that our drivers and attendants have raised in recent meetings. Most recently, staff members were provided a timeline to improve the climate within the office.

Teaching summer school is voluntary. Bonuses were provided to teachers and assistants in an effort to address a significant shortage in teachers for the summer school program. In addition, teachers are on 10-month contracts and summer school is not required of them. Bus drivers are on 11-month contracts which includes summer school.

The following message was shared with all employee groups several times since April 2021:

Summer School Pay Incentives  We are committed to providing full in-person and full-time distance learning summer school programs for summer 2021. We know that the pandemic school year has been extremely difficult. To ensure we have excellent teachers and staff available for the summer school program, we will provide a bonus for summer school teachers and assistants who are reporting in person this summer. More about the bonuses:

  • These bonuses will equal $1,000 for T-scale employees who report in-person for the entire summer, and $500 for assistants who report in-person for the entire summer. Bonuses will be prorated for employees who work in a job-sharing capacity this summer. For instance, a T-scale employee who works for half of the summer school session would receive a $500 bonus.
  • Bonuses are included in the School Board’s proposed budget, but remain contingent on enrollment and inclusion in the final approval of the School Board’s budget.
  • Summer school instructional positions are currently posted on the APS jobs board and all interested staff are encouraged to apply.

Our bus drivers provide a vital service to students and the community and we are committed to responding to their feedback and ensuring they feel valued and appreciated as members of the Arlington Public Schools team."

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