Short on bus drivers, Oregon school districts try to boost pay and incentives

BEAVERTON, Ore. (KGW) — There’s an urgent need for bus drivers in districts across Oregon and throughout the country. Many districts are doing what they can to make the job more attractive to new hires.

In the Beaverton School District, base pay for bus drivers has increased to $23.39 an hour. After each year, the pay goes up before topping out at just under $30 per hour. District officials said they are now the highest paying district in Washington County.

Additionally drivers get a pension and full benefits for family members. District officials hope the pay, pension and benefits are incentives for people on the fence about becoming a bus driver.

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Melissa Cagle is a bus driver for the district. She was hired last school year after retiring from 30 or so years of working retail.

“I wanted to do something I enjoy because I love kids, and it gave me summers and holidays off so I can still be with the family,” said Cagle as she drove her morning route.

Rusty Bingham, with the district’s transportation department, hope to hire more people like Cagle.

“We are roughly 15-20 drivers short to start the school year,” Bingham said.

He said the Beaverton School District, like so many other districts across the country, is experiencing a dire bus driver shortage. It was an issue before COVID hit, but the pandemic has made it worse.

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While many districts are experiencing a bus driver shortage, different districts offer varied pay and incentives. For instance, Salem-Keizer Public School officials say they’re offering incentives of up to $3000 to join their transportation team.

A 2019 report from School Bus Fleet found nationally, the average bus driver’s starting pay was $16.67 an hour.

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