Could lifting the earning cap for retired state workers help school bus driver shortage?

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CAPITAL REGION, N.Y. (WTEN) – As schools continue to shift between remote and in-person learning, one thing, besides COVID, remains consistent: there is just not enough school bus drivers.

“We estimated that we lost between 15-20 percent of our school bus drivers as a result of the pandemic across the state of New York,” David Christopher, executive director of the New York Association for Pupil Transportation, said.

Christopher said one way the state can hire more bus drivers is to life the current wage cap for state retirees. “Currently there is a cap of $35,000. So if you’re a state retiree, once you hit the $35,000 cap you’re penalized if you continue to earn money from a state entity.”

In her State of the State address Wednesday, Governor Hochul called for lifting the wage cap. In September, state senator Mike Martucci (R, C, IP) 42nd Senate District, who used to run a school bus company, proposed a bill which also calls for removing the cap for upwards of a year. “A huge obstacle to recruiting and retaining good school bus drivers is the salary cap,” the senator explains “you might have someone who comes to work for a school district 3 of the 5 days a week because if they work the extra two days they go over the salary cap.  

According to the New York Association for Pupil Transportation, around two million students rely on school buses for transportation in New York State. In a statement, the New York State United Teachers Union says another factor which could entice people to help out in the education sector is to look at the current wages and how to improve them saying, “districts also need to offer fair, competitive wages for substitute teachers and school-related professionals, including bus drivers.”

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