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Baltimore County school bus drivers protest low pay

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School bus driver Stephannie Wilson protests outside the Baltimore County School Board. Credit: John Lee

Baltimore County school bus drivers and attendants demonstrated outside the school board Tuesday night, demanding more pay.

They were holding signs demanding board members “Put your money where your mouth is” and “Respect for workers.” They said low pay is causing staff shortages and creating lousy working conditions.

A school spokesman said the system is short about 90 drivers and 30 attendants.

Stephannie Wilson, who has been a Baltimore County school bus driver for 17 years, said she is having to run twice as many routes as she used to.

“They tell us the slogan is ‘pride in the ride,’” Wilson said, “Take pride in what you pay us.”

She said her day starts at 6 a.m.

“And with the extra runs, I get back about 5:30 (p.m.) sometimes, a quarter to six, depending on how the kids are and how many runs I have.”

David Basler, who is on the executive board of AFSCME Council 67, which represents hourly employees like bus drivers and aides, said “people can only pick up the slack for so long.”

Basler said, “It’s hard for people to keep up doing the work of two or three other people and expect to get the same results for the children and students in the classroom.”

Speaking on WYPR’s Midday program on Tuesday, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski said he hopes to announce some help for those employees in the next couple of weeks.

“We are actively working on solutions in all of those areas in partnership with BCPS,” Olszewski said.

The school board took no action Tuesday night regarding staff pay and shortages, but members did express support for the employees.

“Obviously we are in a recruitment and retention crisis,” board member Rod McMillion said. “We cannot continue to overwork the people who come to work every day and do their jobs.”

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County.