Chris Schulz Published

Senate Education Committee Addresses Bus Driver Shortage

Sen. Amy Grady in a pink blouse and grey blazer, sits next to Sen. Charles Trump wearing a black suit over a white shirt and red striped tie, in the Feb. 23, 2023 meeting of the Senate Education Committee.
Sen. Amy Grady, R-Mason, sits next to Sen. Charles Trump, R-Mason, in the Feb. 23, 2023 meeting of the Senate Education Committee.
Will Price/WV Legislative Photography

The Senate Education Committee took up a bill Thursday aimed at addressing the state’s bus driver shortage.

House Bill 2380 would clear the way for retired bus operators to resume working for their local school district without losing their benefits.

In recent years, a shortage of bus operators across the state has left school systems with no other choice than to cancel routes, interrupting students’ education. 

The committee approved a functionally identical bill, Senate Bill 56, in the first days of the session, but that bill has languished in the Senate Finance Committee. 

Sen. Mike Oliverio, R-Monongalia, identified a fiscal note of $250,000 attached to the Senate Bill as a potential barrier to passage.

“I think the fiscal note is completely misguided. I can’t see an additional dollar of cost of allowing a retired bus driver who comes back and subs as a bus driver, as opposed to paying somebody who’s not retired,” Oliverio said. “That retired bus driver who comes back and drives an extra 10 days maybe over the 140-day limit, he or she incurs no additional pension benefit for that so there should be no liability to the pension.”

Joe White, executive director of the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association told the committee that he and his staff were also greatly concerned by the fiscal note.

“I can only tell you what was testified in the other chamber’s finance, and that was that the amount on the fiscal note is what they put when they don’t have an answer,” White said.

Committee Chair Sen. Amy Grady, R-Mason, and a teacher, said she has seen the impact of the bus driver firsthand.

“We have these students who have missed 19 days of school this school year, that’s 19 instructional days. That’s not including days they may miss because they’re sick or they have a doctor’s appointment or something else,” Grady said. “So that’s 19 days of school just for not having a bus driver and I know if that happens at my school that happens at all kinds of other schools and I think it’s a huge problem. I would really like to get this fiscal note taken care of.”

Grady concluded by saying there would be further discussion with the Senate Finance Committee to resolve the impasse, and the committee reported the bill to the full Senate with a recommendation it do pass.