Wake County schools tackle bus driver pay issues
Posted November 17, 2015
Cary, N.C. — Wake County school bus drivers met with district leaders Tuesday, after a recent walk-out that delayed afternoon routes.
The two sides met in two large meetings at Southeast Raleigh Magnet High School. They talked about the issues that led to an Oct. 30 strike where dozens of drivers refused to drive on a Friday afternoon shift, leaving parents and school leaders scrambling to get some students home.
Drivers complained that they are not paid enough to survive and said that student discipline problems on the bus are out of hand.
Bus driver Dorothy Easton did not strike, but she knows why others did.
"I understand where they were coming from, I really do," said Easton. "A lot of the drivers were complaining about not being able to meet their needs."
In September, the Board of Education approved a 3 percent raise for non-classroom school staff, including bus drivers, but that raise was not reflected in some driver’s paychecks on the day of the strike.
During Tuesday’s meetings, Wake County school leaders told bus drivers about planned salary increases and available bonuses, among other things. Bus drivers will have a guaranteed six-hour day base pay and they can earn bonuses for attendance. There is also extra duty pay available for things like field trips.
Wake County Public Schools System Chief Business Officer David Neter said that pay for bus drivers comes from state lawmakers. This year, they provided a $750 bonus. County leaders dipped into their own pockets for the three percent salary increase.
"That's because our Board of Education and Board of County Commissioners stepped up when the state-not so much," said Neter.
The question that remained was whether that would be enough to keep drivers from striking again.
“I would like to think that those who were involved with it, I know at least some of them have realized, that that was not the best way to work through an issue,” said Neter. "It is that kind of cooperation and working together that can work through these issues."
To help with student discipline, a proposal to put cameras on every school bus in Wake County was expected to be laid out Tuesday night. The project would cost about $1.4 million, but the hope is that it will help the problem.
"I have to give them the benefit of the doubt that things will come into place," said Easton.