Congressman McGarvey seeks federal funding for JCPS bus drivers

Congressman McGarvey seeks federal funding for JCPS bus drivers
Published: Aug. 22, 2023 at 6:54 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - On Tuesday, Congressman Morgan McGarvey sent a letter to the United States Dept. of Education requesting federal funding to help JCPS, specifically for bus drivers and transportation.

“We can help advocate for additional resources for our schools,” McGarvey said. “What we have seen with the shortage of bus drivers is a need for more resources for transportation.”

Since JCPS’ first day of school, transportation issues have been nonstop for some families.

The root of the problem points back to the bus driver shortage. The solution is not as simple as hiring more drivers. It’s also an issue with money.

”We are advocating for JCPS and Louisvillians with the U.S. Department of Education and asking, ‘Do you have specific resources we can allocate to transportation issues?’ McGarvey said. “Because that’s what we are facing here. The issue on the first day of school issues was transportation and busing, and we know a lot of that comes from a shortage of bus drivers. Are there additional funds we can use to get more bus drivers to get some help here in Jefferson County for our kids and families?”

McGarvey is a JCPS alum, JCPS parent and advocate for public education. The role of Congress is not to make bus routes or decisions for local school districts. His letter to the Dept. of Education does not request a certain amount, just asks if funding is available since this is an unprecedented request.

“I think things have gotten a little bit better,” McGarvey said. “But I want to make sure we are turning over every stone and doing everything we can in our different capacities to help with the transportation issues in Jefferson County.”

JCPS amended its transportation plan to include adding dozens of employees to the 485-RIDE hotline and bus compounds to assist with communication. Contracting with Miller Transportation for 20 additional school buses and drivers.-Deploying vans and other vehicles to take kids home who ended up on the wrong bus or can’t be dropped off without supervision.

McGarvey recognized the district’s improvements, but still believes there may be additional long-term solutions to explore. His office is in touch with the US Dept. of Education.

“Every parent deserves to send their kids to school with peace of mind that they’re being taken care of and will come home safely,” McGarvey said in a release. “The extreme bus delays at the start of this school year meant many young students, including our own, didn’t get home from school until late in the evening — and some kids didn’t get picked up at all. This isn’t normally a federal issue, but I’m asking the Department of Education to provide our community with additional resources to help alleviate the shortage of bus drivers and provide extra relief for the drivers who are working hard to take our kids to and from school. While Congress doesn’t — and shouldn’t — control Jefferson County bus routes, I’m exploring every possible solution to make sure this never happens again.”

(Read the full letter below)

Dear Deputy Assistant Secretary Schott:

Public schools are the core of our communities. As a tenet we all hold dear, public education is the foundation upon which we ensure that each successive generation is equipped to flourish and thrive with dignity. A strong education system forges strong minds which forge a strong country. When our schools succeed, we all succeed.

One of the pillars of the American education system is the idea that all students, regardless of race, gender, disability, socioeconomic status, or any other characteristic, are entitled to a free and comprehensive education that promotes their growth, intellect, and personhood. Part of that mission is transportation to and from school to ensure that all students have ready access to success. As a proud product of Jefferson County Public Schools (“JCPS”) and fierce supporter of public education, I understand how critical it is to uphold this bedrock commitment.

I applaud all those who serve our public schools and help to enlighten the minds of the next generation. It is up to all of us to ensure that those public servants have the tools, resources, and support they need to carry this mission through. As you know, a shortage of bus drivers and fiscal constraints have plagued schools across the country. Jefferson County Public Schools has lost a third of its bus drivers since before the COVID-19 pandemic. This bus driver shortage, in addition to other salient factors, led to a bus fiasco on the first day of school at JCPS with long delays and logistical potholes.

Like many JCPS parents, I sent my son on a bus for his first day at a new school, and he didn’t get home until after dinner. Some kids weren’t picked up at all or didn’t get home until nearly ten o’clock at night, leading to worried parents and hungry kids. Every parent deserves to send their kids to school with peace of mind that they’re being taken care of and will come home safely. Let me be clear: our school bus drivers and our JCPS faculty and staff went above and beyond in ensuring that these kids got home safely despite the challenges that arose. Nevertheless, we cannot allow this to happen again.

As the dust settles and students begin to return to the classroom, I will continue to monitor ways we can best uplift and support our school system. In the meantime, I will continue to support efforts on Capitol Hill to ensure that our schools receive the robust federal supports they deserve and the resources they need. The bus driver shortage not only afflicts JCPS, but also school districts across the country.

Thus, I write to ask that the Department of Education identify and provide Jefferson County Public Schools with any existing grants, tools, or other resources the district can use to address the school bus driver shortage. As this shortage affects districts all over the country, I also write to ask what actions the Department is taking to address the shortage and support affected state and local education agencies.

I look forward to your timely response along with the other parents of JCPS. I appreciate all that you and your office do to uphold the dignity and development of our youth. Their success is our success.