Chesterfield school bus driver recalls hearing about 75 cent pay raise: ‘It was like a slap in the face’

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CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Bus drivers for Chesterfield County Public Schools can expect to see more on their paychecks in the coming days after the county’s School Board approved a 75 cent raise last month.

One driver said Wednesday they were initially told a $2 raise was in the works but then she received a letter about the 75 cent raise.

“It was, I want to say upsetting but it was worse than that,” Carol Hairfield, a bus driver for CCPS, said. “It was like a slap in the face.”

Hairfield said she’s been a school bus driver in Chesterfield for two years and she makes $14.84 an hour. She told 8News that it’s not enough.

“We need a living wage,” Hairfield said. “There is too many bus drivers out there working two and three jobs just to make ends meet.”

The Chesterfield County School Board approved the raise in mid-November to bump drivers’ pay to $15.59 per hour.

By comparison, drivers for RPS make $15 per hour and drivers for Henrico County Public Schools start at $14.61 an hour. Experienced drivers can make $15.31 per hour in Henrico.

“The 75 cent increase is a start but we just need more,” Hairfield told 8News.

Dennis Jarrett, the interim Chief Financial Officer for the school district, said drivers should bring in $800 to $900 more a year.

“It doesn’t sound like a whole lot but actually it is,” Jarrett said. “If you take a bus driver at the beginning of their salary scale, 75 cents an hour can be as much as three to five percent of their salary.”

Hairfield says drivers will face a four percent increase in insurance in January. She explained that drivers are having to work more hours and travel new routes on the daily.

With enrollment at more than 62,000 students, Chesterfield County is now the 67th largest school division in the United States. More students means more buses and drivers.

The district has been dealing with a shortage of drivers and struggling to fill positions.

“Money talks, it really does and there is a great incentive,” Hairfield told 8News. “You’ve got people at fast food restaurants starting pay is more than what a bus driver makes is paid, that transports children every single day.”

Chesterfield County Public Schools has 7,770 employees, with 550 who make up the transportation staff. The district currently has 464 contracted drivers and 39 vacancies.

The bus driver pay increase is part of a larger sum of money asked for by Chesterfield County’s Superintendent. Dr. Mervin Daugherty asked for more than 8 million dollars for the 2020 school year, which was approved by the School Board.

The money will go towards the 75 cent bus driver increase, hiring 38 more teachers, extra security equipment and cameras, refinishing gym floors, changing locker bays into classrooms, and replacing laptops.

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