About 300 Jackson school bus drivers gave up their morning and afternoon routes yesterday to protest for better conditions including an increase in pay. Among them was 21 year veteran school bus driver, Ernest Slaughter.
"It seems to us that all the administrators are doing well but yet the bus drivers we have not had a raise in over nine years. That's very difficult when the costs of living is continuing to increase but yet instead of progressing we are retrogressing."
In addition to the low wage issue, Janice Brown who has been a JPS driver for about eight months says they are also protesting being forced to work extra routes and deal with unruly children.
"There is a policy set in place where the drivers write the students up. But we don't get the support from the administrators from the schools when we turn these right ups in. And in turn the students are put back on the bus and all that does is elevate the discipline issues. There have been times where bus drivers have had to turn the buses around because the safety of those students are at risk when you're trying to drive and you have students fighting in the back of the bus or jumping up or just total discord."
JPS Superintendent Cedric Gray says the district is currently in talks with the bus drivers to address their concerns. He says even though the majority of drivers are off the job the district does have a plan in place to get its more than 23 thousand students to and from school.
"Our plan to supply substitute group bus drivers and reach out to members of our community who are willing and able to help is working so we're very grateful for that. But most importantly I'm very grateful for parents who've stepped up and said they want their children in school. We have exams next week so it's extremely important that our students get to school on time and they are prepared for next week."
The bus drivers insist they are not on strike, but merely protesting. They say they hope to be back behind the wheel as soon as a reasonable agreement can be worked out.