Oct. 6—The Joplin School District and its Board of Education made the right decision last week when it raised the pay for bus drivers and implemented incentive programs for those employees.
The move is intended to make the district more competitive for bus driver pay, and to address a shortage of drivers by boosting recruitment and retention efforts.
Currently, a shortage of bus drivers can lead to longer routes for children and more time on the bus for them, fewer routes overall, and a lack of drivers available for daytime or weekend trips.
The fact that this issue was brought up by administrators and discussed in the board's public meeting was a pleasant surprise. Usually, conversations (both nationally and locally) about issues of pay in public education are dominated by teachers' salaries.
Those conversations generally continue to be needed because teachers play such a critical role in the education of a child.
To be sure, teachers earn every penny they make and more.
But the truth is that schools simply wouldn't function without bus drivers to get kids to and from class. In fact, schools wouldn't function at all without any of their support staff: the food service workers who make sure kids get breakfast and lunch every day, the building engineers who keep the schools clean and sanitized, the secretaries who become a jack-of-all-trades for their building, the nurses who provide immediate care to sick or injured children, and the numerous other classified staff positions that keep a school district running.
All of these employees put just as much effort into their jobs to support students as teachers do, and it's not unusual for them to work long, hard hours for minimal recognition. They are integral parts of the school district, and they should be compensated as such.
"For our district, this was a win tonight," board member Rylee Hartwell said after the vote to approve the incentive and pay programs.
It's always a win when you can get the best possible people to work with our students, and these programs will help Joplin do just that.