August 22, 2023
To combat a bus driver shortage, the School District of Philadelphia is offering eligible parents money to provide transportation for their children. With the Parent Flat Rate program, parents can apply to drive their kids to school and earn $300 a month (up to $3,000 per school year).
Parents must submit a form monthly requesting service. The open enrollment for this school year ends on Sept. 30, according to School District of Philadelphia spokesperson Monique Braxton. Payments may take up to 30 days to be processed.
Multiple factors determine a student's eligibility, including being a Philly resident, living at least 1.5 miles from their school and being in grades first through fifth or having an Individualized Education Plan. Other eligibility options can be found at the program's site.
Currently, the school district has 210 bus drivers and needs 105 more. About 101,000 students use transportation services, Braxton said. That includes 55,000 using SEPTA fare cards, 33,000 who ride yellow buses or other school vehicles and 13,000 enrolled in the flat-rate
"I think it's significant because it can help the family," Braxton told FOX29. "Say that your children are attending a school that's on your way to work; it's a win-win."
The district provides commercial driver's license training as a part of its goal to hire more bus drivers. Those who pass the program, which takes about 45 days, receive jobs. Part-time employees start at $21.47 per hour, while full-time drivers make $44,880 a year.
To modernize CDL skills tests and help recruit more bus drivers, Gov. Josh Shapiro implemented changes to exam requirements with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation last week. PennDOT is waving the need to identify engine components to pass the test.
"Knowing the components of a school bus engine does not impact a school bus driver's safe driving skills," said Deputy Secretary for Driver and Vehicle Services Kara Templeton. "By implementing this waiver from FMCSA, we hope that more drivers will apply for the school bus endorsement and become school bus drivers."
The flat-rate program started in 2020 to slow the spread of COVID-19 by giving parents $150 monthly to take their kids to and from school.