School bus driver shortage separates innovators from stragglers

Earlier this week, reimaginED executive editor Matt Ladner wrote about the latest in a series of pandemic-related challenges for K-12 education: a severe shortage of school bus drivers, which is hampering the ability of schools to get children delivered to their classrooms.

Now, Chad Aldeman, policy director of the Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University, and Marguerite Roza, Edumonics Lab director and a research professor at Georgetown University, have weighed in on the dilemma for The 74.

Like Ladner, Aldeman and Roza acknowledge that innovation isn’t necessarily a strong suit for public school districts. The bus driver shortage is just another challenge that has school leaders scrambling. Their reactions to this particular challenge, Aldeman and Roza say, can be illuminating:

“How districts react to these unusual labor challenges may be telling us something important: whether they can adapt to meet the moment and which, if any, will consider adopting innovations that are common in other industries outside of education.”

Some districts have either delayed the start of their school year or suspended bus routes through October. Others are doing what they can to attract (or retain) bus drivers via higher pay and better benefits. But, the authors note, a number of districts are taking more innovative approaches, and some have begun completely rethinking their transportation processes.

Which seems like a much saner way to go than calling in National Guard members, the route Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker chose to take.

One of the more interesting ideas Aldeman and Roza unearthed came from Chicago school leaders, who are offering stipends of up to $1,000 upfront and $500 a month to parents willing to take on the responsibility of getting their children to class.

You can read more about that idea and other ways school districts are coping here.