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Palm Coast Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022 11 months ago

A Presidents Day pick-me-up for bus drivers

Let's send a message to Flagler and Volusia drivers that we value the men and women who take our children safely to school every day.
by: Brian McMillan Contributing Writer

Considering their important role in our children’s lives, shouldn’t bus drivers be paid better?

In both the Palm Coast Observer and the Ormond Beach Observer recently, we have reported on low wages and the resulting bus driver shortages and route delays. At the Feb. 8 Volusia County School Board meeting, bus driver Sheila Rush said she’d been “in tears” when she learned that her 16-year-old granddaughter made just $2 per hour less than Rush did. The teen was working at Wendy's; Rush has been a school bus driver for over 20 years.

Another Volusia bus driver said she makes $13.26 per hour, after four years on the job.

In Flagler County, starting bus drivers recently got a raise and make $15 per hour. That means if the driver works 40 hours per week (as a driver or combined with another part-time job with similar pay), he or she will make $31,200 for the year. If housing should be only one-third of your income, then that bus driver can afford a house payment of $866 per month.

In other words, the driver would need to work not 40 but more like 80 hours per week to afford the typical rent in Palm Coast; or, the driver needs a roommate or spouse with at least the same income.

As a society, do we need every job to pay a living wage? Maybe not. But the role of bus driver comes with too much responsibility to be considered a “starter job” that is only about half of a living wage in our area.

The recent arrest of an Ormond Beach man for driving his Flagler school bus — full of students — while under the influence of alcohol should cast aside any doubt whether we need to attract high caliber, responsible citizens to do this job.

State and local lawmakers need to revisit how we view our bus drivers’ compensation.

In the meantime, what can I do? Here’s a note I’m planning to send with my children tomorrow in an envelope:

     Dear Bus Driver,

     Thanks for driving my children safely to school every day. Happy Presidents Day on Monday!

     Sincerely, Ellie and Kennedy’s dad

And with the note, I’ll include a president — a $20 bill with Andrew Jackson on the front.

Want to join in? Even a George Washington would send a message that you care. And no driver would complain if you went with Benjamin Franklin, even though he wasn’t a president.

Wouldn’t it be great, as a community, to say thank you to our school bus drivers and see smiles, rather than tears, on their faces?

Email [email protected].

Brian McMillan was editor of the Palm Coast Observer from 2010 to 2022. He was named the Journalist of the Year for weekly newspapers in North America by the Local Media Association in 2012. He lives in Palm Coast with his wife and five children....

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