Cobb school district raises pay for bus drivers amid shortage, Marietta follows suit
As metro school districts are dealing with a shortage of bus drivers and competing with each other for candidates within the pool, Marietta and Cobb County School Districts have raised the stakes. Both districts have approved raises for their bus drivers in an effort to keep them engaged.
Cobb County Schools unanimously approved a $5.25-per-hour raise for bus drivers, which raises the starting pay for drivers to $25 per hour. The district is the state’s second-largest with more than 107,000 students.
Currently, Cobb has more than 200 bus driver openings, which they hope will be closed or reduced thanks to the pay raise. Cobb Superintendent Chris Ragsdale said this pay rate is the highest among the other metro Atlanta districts and will see the highest-paid drivers making $33.32 per hour. Board officials estimate the raise in salaries costing the district about $7.6 million, which will be covered by unexpected property tax revenue.
Ragsdale told school board members, “We were not as competitive as we should be with our bus driver pay.”
With over 70% of Cobb students riding school buses, the district has increasingly had bus driver shortages during the year. Cobb officials hope the higher salaries will help fill the gap. Ragsdale acknowledged it won’t be a “silver bullet” for the shortage problem because drivers leave for varying reasons including being overworked.
Marietta City Schools quickly moved to approve a pay raise for its bus drivers a day after the Cobb County School District did.
During a special call meeting Friday, the Marietta school board voted 7-0 to approve starting pay of $26 per hour, a raise of $5.96, for the district’s bus drivers, and a base wage of $15.71 per hour, up from $12.11, for the district’s bus monitors.
Marietta Superintendent Grant Rivera told a news outlet, “I met with the drivers this morning and told them that we certainly respect and understand why Cobb made the shift that they did. At the same exact time we had an opportunity very quickly to show them that we care and value them and that meant that if a neighbor of ours, such as Cobb, increased their pay schedule, that we were going to do the same.”
Other metro Atlanta School districts across the country are having the same problems relative to bus driver shortages. The DeKalb and Fulton school districts each started the school year with about 200 openings for bus drivers, while Atlanta Public Schools and Clayton schools were short about 40 drivers each. Most area school districts only pay drivers between $18-$21 an hour, while some are also offering hiring and retention bonuses to drivers to come to their school’s bus driver program.