Plan to boost bus driver pay introduced at the Roundhouse


SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – One state lawmaker is hoping federal stimulus funding can help address the state’s school bus driver shortage. This comes during the special session in Santa Fe where lawmakers are trying to figure out how to spend more than a billion dollars in federal relief funds.

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Senator Cliff Pirtle is introducing Senate Bill 6. It would give more than $26 million from American Rescue plan dollars to the state’s Public Education Department over the next two years to give school bus drivers more pay.

He says, “One of the main things about school bus drivers is it’s not an 8-hour gig usually so a lot of times they work other jobs.” KRQE has reported districts across the state are desperate to find drivers. 

Senator Pirtle says in Roswell alone they’re down about 15% of their typical bus driver staff. Back in October, the Albuquerque public school board voted to offer one-thousand dollar signing bonuses for new bus drivers. “To get somebody excited enough to come work four hours we need to ensure we’re compensating them and we want good, qualified people to come drive.”

House Bill 2 is already being discussed in the Roundhouse. It would allocate nearly $470 million of the American Rescue Plan funding for everything from road infrastructure to expanding broadband. Senator Pirtle says he hopes the bus driver funding could be added to HB 2.

Other districts are also finding workarounds to deal with the bus driver shortage. In some cases in Rio Rancho, they are having office staff with the proper qualifications, fill in as drivers. The APS board also recently gave bus drivers a slight bump in starting salary to $18.00 an hour. 

KRQE reached out to APS and Rio Rancho public schools about this proposed bill but have not heard back. 

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