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Pittman steps into Anne Arundel school bus fight

Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman
Friends of Steuart Pittman
Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman

Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman called on the county’s school board Tuesday to find a way to pay striking school bus drivers more and bring them back to work.

Like many jurisdictions in Maryland and across the country, the county has faced a shortage of drivers to get students to school since classes resumed in September. The situation worsened this week when drivers for the Annapolis Bus Company, one of the school system’s contractors, went on strike.

At his weekly news conference, Pittman said the problems won’t be solved until school bus drivers, who earn between $20,000 and $28,000 a year are paid a living wage.

He acknowledged the school system has lengthy contracts that would be difficult to change immediately, but said something has to be done, whether in next year’s budget or using American Rescue Plan Act funds, to get school buses running again.

“There's a way to do this, and it's gonna take upping some pay,” he said. “And it's gonna take changing the way some contracts are written. But it's doable and has to be done fast.”

Although the county executive has no say in school board contracts, Pittman said the board needs to develop a plan to pay drivers more.

“It is that plan that is going to give our current drivers the faith that things will get better to come back on the job, or if they’re not striking to stay on the job,” he said. “But it is also going to encourage others to apply for these jobs, if they know that these jobs are going to pay a livable wage in the future.”

Pittman went to the board’s meeting Tuesday, but his request to speak was denied. He said the school system’s lawyers told him he would have to address the board in closed session because it involves contracts.

A school spokesman did not immediately return a call for comment.

Joel McCord is a trumpet player who learned early in life that that’s no way to make a living.