School bus driver and substitute teacher shortage ahead of 2021-22 school year

Harrisburg

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) –The start of the new school year is right around the corner, but depending on where you live, a school bus might not be.

“Statewide, we need hundreds and hundreds of drivers to be fully-staffed for this fall,” Ryan Dellinger, Executive Director of Pennsylvania School Bus Association, said.

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A bus driver shortage is nothing new, but the pandemic only made it worse.

“The last thing we ever want to do is to have kids unable to get to school,” Dellinger said.

The Pennsylvania School Bus Association created “You Behind the Wheel”, a campaign to bring awareness to the industry and connect people with open positions. Many bus companies are also offering big sign-on bonuses.

“At this point, I would like to say it works but given the extent of the shortage, I don’t want to say, it’s not enough, but there’s definitely more to be done,” Dellinger said.

School districts are dealing with the same problem.

“Substitute lists are very small in most districts,” Mark DicRocco, Executive Director of Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators, said.

New legislation allowing college students who are studying education to fill in as substitutes have helped.

“It’s a great situation because you have talented young people who are working their way to becoming teachers, being able to fill in where they’re needed,” Chis Lilinthan, spokesperson for Pennsylvania State Education Association, said.

Right now, districts have to exhaust their lists of active substitute teachers before asking retired teachers to fill in. Pennsylvania State Education Association wants to change that.

“Oftentimes, our retired teachers are the ones that have the most time on their hands and can come in and they have a wealth of experience,” DiRocco said.

PASA says about eight years ago, 40,000 teachers were graduating from Pennsylvania colleges a year. This past year, it was only 14,000.

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