Assumption Parish school bus drivers say they can't afford to keep buses running
ASSUMPTION PARISH - Braxton Leblanc has been a school bus driver for 16 years. He owns his bus, but maybe not for much longer.
"I'm in danger of losing my bus because I'm not getting my correct operational pay. I can't tell you the last time I paid a bus note," Leblanc said.
He's one of the few remaining drivers in Assumption Parish who owns his bus.
The drivers are worried they're being squeezed out with a new policy that ended operational expenses for bus drivers who have their own buses.
"The state says that we're supposed to get 180 days of operational pay by law minimum, and we can't even get that," Leblanc said.
The school system says because of COVID, the board voted last year to stop paying drivers for days when buses are not running.
Since then, the school has revised the policy for this year and now compensates drivers for the statutory amount of their operational pay--still less than what drivers were used to.
"We have the most precious cargo there is," said Alicia Carter, who has been driving for 39 years. "When school starts, we are the most important people because we're the first people to see them in the morning and the last person to see them at night, but we're not being treated fairly."
Like her few other colleagues, she says expenses to run the bus have sometimes come out of their own pockets.
"it's not cheap running a school bus. A tire is 4 to 5 hundred dollars. Right now, diesel is $3.90 a gallon."
Drivers would like the previous policy put back in place for good.