Following a request from U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, new Frequently Asked Questions have been issued by the U.S. Department of Education on using emergency relief funds to address the nationwide bus driver shortage.
As districts proceed to grapple with the shortage, Sen. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., despatched a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona urging the company to challenge clear steerage to states and school districts about using Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief, ESSER, funds to rent and retain school bus drivers.
Late final week, the Department of Education responded to the request and issued FAQs on whether or not states and faculties can use ESSER and Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund cash that was included within the three COVID restoration payments to retain and rent bus drivers.
According to the division’s response, a state academic company or native academic company can use these funds for retention bonuses, wage will increase, coaching, acquiring a industrial driver’s license for brand spanking new drivers, and to offset the associated fee of hiring extra bus drivers.
In New York alone, school districts have reported a median bus driver shortage of 15% to 20% this school yr, in accordance to Sen. Gillibrand’s workplace, inflicting extra burdens for college students and households. Some bus drivers have retired early fairly than threat getting sick, and issues round vaccines and masking necessities have led to drivers quitting and dissuaded potential drivers from making use of for the roles.
According to the Department of Education’s steerage, ESSER or GEER funds could also be used to reimburse dad and mom or guardians for transportation prices associated to the pandemic or to supply a stipend for transportation prices, so long as they’re cheap and essential.
“Across New York State and the country, families and schools are grappling with a school bus driver shortage that has made returning to in-person school even more difficult,” Sen. Gillibrand mentioned in a press release. “I am pleased to announce that school districts and states are able to use federal funds provided by Congress in the COVID relief bills to recruit and retain school bus drivers.”