Nora de la Our writes in Jacobin magazine about the plight of school bus drivers. They are in short supply across the nation. She explains why.

The 2021–22 school year has been marked by severe transportation problems across US school districts. In a nationwide survey of those in the pupil transportation industry conducted in August, 78 percent of respondents said their district’s bus driver shortages are getting worse, with 51 percent describing the situation as “severe” or “desperate.”

As a result, students are facing hours-long commutes, and parents are interrupting their work days to wait in lengthy pickup lines where busing is either unavailable or severely delayed. In September, Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker activated the National Guard to drive kids to school in communities hard hit by COVID-19.

But while school bus driver shortages are more pronounced than in years past, they’re hardly new. Jacqueline Smith, a driver-dispatcher for Indian River County School District in Florida and vice president of transportation for her union local, told Jacobin that staffing shortages were causing her and her colleagues to do “double work” long before the pandemic.

According to annual survey data from School Bus Fleet magazine, more than half of US school districts have experienced driver shortages every year since at least 2006, and more than 70 percent of districts have experienced shortages for most of those years.

Why are US school systems plagued by chronic bus driver shortages? The reason isn’t that there’s a lack of jobseekers willing in theory to work as school bus drivers. It’s that pay and benefits are grossly incommensurate with the incredibly challenging, multifaceted work that school transportation entails.

This video accompanies the story.