From the County Times........
School System Uncertain of Bus Driver Protest Impact
By Guy Leonard
St. Mary’s County Public Schools officials are considering what consequences will befall contract bus drivers who refuse to pick up students on their scheduled routes April 23. It has been reported that some contract bus drivers will refuse to run their routes that day if their demands for higher wages are not met.
“That’s being discussed,” said schools transportation chief Jeff Thompson in a Wednesday interview regarding consequences. “We expect contractors to do their due diligence on their routes that day.
“We don’t know [which] drivers are planning to not drive that day.”
Thompson said the school system was heavily dependent on contract bus drivers to get children to school; there are only 12 buses directly owned and funded by the school system.
There are 190 buses and routes run by contractors who pick up children all across the county.
Thompson said the school system’s proposed budget, which will be part of the discussion at the county’s April 23 public hearing on its own $259 million budget with proposed tax increases, included more funding for contract bus drivers.
“What’s included in the proposed budget is a three-percent increase and that’s for hourly payments to contractors,” Thompson told The County Times.
“Contractors determine what their drivers are paid.”
One contract school bus driver, who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity, said a petition had been circulating since September of last year asking for signatures to demand higher wages from the school system.
A letter had also been circulating among contract bus drivers for the past two weeks attempting to gain signatures as to who would drive their routes on Apr. 23.
“It’s not going to hurt the county,” the driver said. “It’s going to jeopardize the bus contractors.
“They have a contract with the county that says they have to put someone on that route.”