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Dysart Unified School District set to be fully staffed with bus drivers as districts around Arizona struggle to hire

Dysart Unified School District approved a $20 an hour starting wage for bus drivers a few weeks ago.

PHOENIX — School districts across Arizona are still struggling to fill bus driver positions, including several districts in the Valley that are short dozens of drivers.

However, the Dysart Unified School District, which recently raised their starting wage for bus drivers to $20 an hour, said they’ll be fully staffed in a few weeks.

The ‘first time’ being fully staffed

Throughout 20 years in the business of driving kids to school Doug Curry, Director of Transportation for Dysart Unified School District, said he’s going to have all 20 open bus driver positions filled, with five on reserve by the end of November.

“This would be the first time to be fully staffed,” Curry said.

About three weeks ago, the district’s governing board approved a $20 an hour starting wage.

“That’s what brought them,” Curry said. “Before we were getting one or two applicants a week. We’ve gotten 50.”

Districts still searching 

Districts around the Valley, including neighboring Peoria Unified School District are struggling to get the bus drivers they need to get students to school.

Peoria Unified said they’re currently short 20 bus drivers. On Thursday, the governing board will consider raising their wage about $3 an hour.

Currently, a job opening on the district’s website said they pay about $13.60.

“Dysart kind of took it to another level,” Scott Thompson, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services for Mesa Public Schools said.

Mesa Public Schools is the largest district in Arizona. Thompson said he’s short about 60 bus drivers, to be fully staffed he’d need almost 400 bus drivers.

“We’re covering more routes than ever and we’re really struggling to make the system work the way it should on a daily basis,” Thompson said.

Thompson said pay is about $16 to $17 an hour in Mesa. Thompson said though there are other incentives that come with the job, including working 40 hours a week, getting benefits, it’s a year-round job, and Mesa has been purchasing new busses too.

“We got to get more drivers hired and trained up,” Thompson said. “We’re just trying to figure out how to do that.

Is money the solution? 

Mark Joraanstad is the Executive Director of the Arizona School Administrators Association, a nonprofit including more than 1,400 school leaders around Arizona.

Joraanstad said they plan on asking Governor Doug Ducey for help in finding solutions.

“Money isn’t necessarily the case with this,” Joraanstad said. “It’s getting more personnel who want to continue to do this job.”

Curry said though it was money that made the difference for Dysart.

“Our goal was first to the finish line and I think we did it,” Curry said.

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