ANNAPOLIS, Md. — A strike is making getting to school even harder.
Anne Arundel County Public Schools has 80 bus routes that went uncovered on top of the ones their bus driver shortage is already impacting.
Frustrations are mounting at the Annapolis Bus Company where bus drivers tell us instead of returning back to the driver seat they're going to sit out until they get the pay they feel they deserve.
"We're on strike because we feel as though we're being unfairly treated," said Lisa Beauchamp, one of several bus drivers on strike Tuesday afternoon.
She says she's willing to sit out until the Annapolis Bus Company pays her and her colleagues better wages and benefits.
"They only gave us a 50 cent raise here but you have gas prices that went up double than 50 cent. My rent has gone up, my car note, food and it's just not enough," she said.
Beauchamp says she's been set back by her low pay on top of the pandemic.
"I was thankful that they passed the law that you couldn't be evicted. I was thankful that I had a working relationship with my finance company for my vehicle," Beauchamp shared.
She says she feels this all while the state boasts a $2.5 billion surplus.
"There's no reason why the governor, the treasurer and all of those that are in government cannot set aside for each county for transportation and education so you can pay your bus drivers and your bus attendants a decent wage," Beauchamp said.
Anne Arundel County Public School District says they've been in talks with the Annapolis Bus Company making it clear ABC has a contract they must fulfill as the district considers "all remedies available to them" if they don't.
"We hope that the discussions that are happening between bus contractors and the drivers and between us and the bus contractor will bear some fruit and we'll get this thing fixed quickly," said Bob Mosier, AACPS Chief Communications Officer.
"It's time for a change and change is going to come," said Beauchamp.
That change is likely using federal dollars from the America Rescue Plan according to County Executive Steuart Pittman.
"In terms of long term costs, yeah there's a long term cost to paying bus drivers a livable wage and as the leader of the county that funds that provides most of the funding for our school system, I'm willing to say that we're committed to paying those higher wages those livable wages to get our kids to school," said Pittman.
A spokesperson from Student Transportation on America released a statement on the strike:
Since 2017, Student Transportation of America (STA) has partnered with the Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS) through the Annapolis Bus Company, a member of the STA family of companies. Our agreement has always focused on the provision of safe, efficient, and cost-effective transportation solutions for local students in the Annapolis area, and we have proudly fulfilled such services over the years. On Monday, October 4, 2021, we became aware of some drivers refusing to transport our local students, which continued again this morning. This decision has in turn impacted transportation services and unfortunately, we can confirm that a significant number of students have been affected.
STA understands the importance of maintaining operational readiness – especially as transportation providers across the industry are already facing a nationwide bus driver shortage due to the challenges brought on by the pandemic. We are doing our best to mitigate the impact on the community and hope to resolve this matter quickly in order to meet the important transit needs of area students during the current academic year and beyond.
STA is continuing ongoing communication with both AACPS and the drivers, and we are hopeful that a satisfactory resolution can be reached.