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Proposal could help Colorado districts hire and retain school bus drivers

Lawmaker proposes matching funds for districts
School bus
Posted at 11:45 AM, Jan 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-21 13:48:21-05

Some help could be coming for Colorado school districts struggling to hire and retain bus drivers.

State Rep. Colin Larson (R-Littleton) plans to introduce a bill to provide schools with extra funding so they can offer more competitive salaries for drivers.

“You have a labor force in the school bus market where they have this commodity (a Commercial Driver’s License) that's in incredibly high demand,” Larson said.

Jeffco Public School’s Executive Director of Transportation Greg Jackson said in a statement that the district is losing drivers to private sector companies that can pay $10 to $15 more per hour. The district is still short 51 drivers even after cutting and consolidating several routes earlier this school year.

At the West Terminal in Evergreen, director Josie Gallagher said staff shortages have left them scrambling at times to get kids to and from school.

“We pretty much do a little of everything — if one of our (contracted) service providers can't pick up a student, one of us is running out the door to go pick up those students,” Gallagher said.

Larson’s bill would use money from a Transportation Innovation Grant. Districts would be able to apply for funds but would have to match them with their own federal pandemic relief dollars. He estimates the state would have to fund about $10 to $15 million of the cost. 

"They could take some of these dollars and use them as a short-term solution over the next year or two," Larson said.

Gallagher said she welcomes any support, especially higher pay, but she knows it’s not just transportation departments facing challenges.

“If we don't up our compensation, not only for support services, but all departments, our teachers, if we don't start really looking at that, and stop talking about it, this is what's going to continue to happen,” she said.