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Legislative Update

WPF Study: school bus drivers down nearly 18% over the past 15 years, crisis likely to worsen

by | Feb 19, 2024 | Legislative Update Blog, State Issue

From the Wisconsin Policy Forum: “Wisconsin has seen a 17.7% drop in licensed school bus drivers over the past 15 years, creating challenges for school districts and the families they serve. This problem may get worse before it gets better, as more than one-fifth of licensed school bus drivers are 65 and over.”

It has been well known to school districts across the state, that finding bus drivers recently has been a struggle. This new study shines a light on the severity of the problem, revealing that Wisconsin’s lost over 1/6th of its bus drivers in the past 15 years. Further still, a large portion of the remaining bus drivers are of retirement age, meaning the issue is likely to worsen. Unlike other services that districts must provide, transportation services often cannot be cut as enrollment declines because the number of miles covered may not decrease. This issue is particularly acute in rural districts that are experiencing severe declining enrollment, but still have a large geographic areas to service.

WPF further details how school districts have been finding creative solutions to address this shortage, in order to avoid rising costs and negatively impacting student enrollment and engagement. One example of a school district taking extreme measures to ensure they can provide adequate busing, came earlier this year when Governor Evers signed 2023 Wisconsin Act 26 into law. The bill allows school board members to serve as volunteer bus drivers. The move came as part of an effort by the New Glarus School Board to find ways for districts to adapt to the challenging workforce environment. Still, as the crisis worsens these extraordinary measures may not be enough to avoid even more serious consequences. See the full report here.

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