WASHINGTON (WENY) – School districts nationwide, including those in New York State and Pennsylvania, are still facing school bus driver shortages.
Wednesday, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand sent a letter to Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, urging the agency to issue “clear guidance” to states and districts about using Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to hire and retain school bus drivers.
According to Gillibrand’s office, school districts across New York are reporting an average bus driver shortage of 15-20%; some bus drivers retired early over concerns of catching COVID and “issues around vaccines and masking requirements” have led other drives to quit.
The ESSER Fund money was included in federal COVID-19 relief funding. The money can be used to retain and hire drivers, but Gillibrand days the Department of Education has not provided specific guidance about this and many districts are “unaware that they can use these funds to address the bus driver shortage”.
“Across New York State and the country, families and schools are grappling with a school bus driver shortage that has made returning to normal even more difficult,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The good news is that there are federal funds available to school districts to help them recruit and retain school bus drivers; unfortunately, there has not been clear guidance from the Department of Education on this allowable use. I am calling on the Department of Education to issue clear guidance letting states and school districts know that they can use this critical funding Congress has provided to address the school bus driver shortage and ease the burden on our schools and families.”