Less than three weeks before the 2023 school year starts, the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System driver shortage is worse than ever. As of July 12, the district has only 154 confirmed drivers. Last year they had 222, while in 2019, 328 drivers worked for the schools, according to a transportation update presented to the school board in January.
Stephen Owens, education director at the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, says that the bus shortages facing Chatham County are ultimately a result of state budget policies. The Georgia state government helps supplement school transportation budgets through a practice set in 2000, without adjustments to keep pace with rising transportation costs over the last two decades.
While state grants once covered about 50% of Georgia public schools’ yearly transportation budgets, they funded less than 20% of costs in the 2022-2023 school year, Owens said. “We’re talking hundreds of millions of additional dollars in costs that the state used to pay for that now, school districts are covering.”