Education

Overworked and underpaid? Why HCS could give school bus drivers a boost in pay

On Monday, the school board voted to amends its 2018-19 budget to give bus drivers a pay raise and separates their pay scale from other district employees.
On Monday, the school board voted to amends its 2018-19 budget to give bus drivers a pay raise and separates their pay scale from other district employees. jlee@thesunnews.com

An Horry County school board member has proposed offering added compensation to bus drivers.

During the latest school board meeting, District 4 representative David Cox offered reasons for a boost in pay for county school bus operators. At the heart of his plea was the district’s inability to compete with other districts and bus operations, along with the many duties accompanying the job.

“It is interesting when you go over how much (bus drivers) do,” he said. “In addition to driving the bus, they must keep accurate records, time sheets and mileage reports. They must control students in a firm and safe atmosphere creating the least discipline problems possible. They must cooperate with investigations of liability of accidents involving state-owned buses transporting students to and from public schools in Horry County.

“That’s not to mention keeping equipment clean inside and outside the bus and maintaining a (commercial driver’s license). When you think of just that, it in itself is already a lot.”

Currently, county school bus drivers make anywhere from $12 to $16.70 an hour, with some making two trips each morning and afternoon to students a lift to and from the schoolhouse. Defined as 180-day employees of the school district, they also receive a full-time benefits package.

Still, Cox does not believe it is enough.

“On average, their day is around six hours,” he said. “All things considered, at most they will make around $18,000 per year. I think this is something that should be brought to the board’s attention.”

Should Horry County opt to boost pay for bus drivers, it would follow a trend adopted by a number of other school districts statewide in an effort to address shortages.

Horry Schools has 397 bus driver positions, a number of which remain vacant. According to Horry County Schools spokesperson Lisa Bourcier, the district competes with Coast RTA, Coastal Carolina University and hotels offering shuttle service, if not other school districts.

“It has been challenging as there is a shortage statewide and nationally,” she said. “We recently had a transportation job fair, online job postings, social media boosts, electronic signage at schools, etc.”

Any decision on the matter is to be withheld until HCS learns the results of a salary study, which is expected to be completed in coming weeks. Despite that, Horry County school board chairman Joe DeFeo has already made his position clear on the matter.

“The fact a starting bus driver makes basically $12 to $13 an hour and $18,000 a year at most, in my opinion that isn’t enough,” DeFeo said.

Joe L. Hughes II: 843-444-1702, @JoeLHughesII

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