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Recent School Bus Driver Shortage in Bixby Shows the Need For Transportation Solutions in Oklahoma

November 5, 2021

It is the mission of Every Kid Counts Oklahoma (EKCO) to provide a quality education to all Oklahoma students. We believe our state’s education system should support the unique needs of each child to help every child in Oklahoma reach their potential, and that together we can build an education system that works for every kid. The current laws that rule our education system can become outdated and hinder our children’s education, as is the case with our state’s current school transportation laws.

This issue was recently brought to light over the past week as Bixby Public Schools made headlines with a school closure that had to occur due to a critical bus driver shortage.

Bixby Transportation Blog Photo-1

Bixby Superintendent Rob Miller said in a message posted on the school’s website that “despite our best efforts, the district has not been able to insulate ourselves from the severe shortage of workers that the state and community is currently experiencing.” 

In Miller’s message he said the bus driver shortage is in part, due to “the extensive and rigorous training and licensing requirements set forth in state and federal law.” 

These outdated requirements just aren’t working anymore. There are ways to still safely ensure our children are being transported by trusted, vetted, qualified individuals, while also opening up avenues for more flexible, more creative and more innovative transportation solutions. We just need to start the discussion, and EKCO is happy to be a part of that with state and school leaders. Many other states have already taken steps to reform their transportation options, and Oklahoma can too. 

“It's time for policy makers and schools to collaborate to find solutions that best serve student’s needs,” said Ryan Walters, Executive Director of EKCO. “Clearly the limited options we have in place are not working and students are suffering because of it. Our education system is not working if a student can’t even access reliable transportation to schools.”

Beyond bus drivers, Superintendent Miller said Bixby also needs more classroom teachers, paraprofessionals, teacher assistants, custodians, child nutrition workers, and substitutes. Miller said “we currently have two dozen open teaching and support positions for which we have no qualified applicants.” 

Not only do we need more innovative school transportation solutions in Oklahoma, but we also have a need for a more robust pipeline of passionate, qualified teachers that want to stay in the profession. We have all seen the headlines that teacher shortages are affecting schools nationwide, including right here in Oklahoma. 

Every month, the EKCO team meets with a panel of Oklahoma’s best and brightest educators, including several teacher of the year nominees and winners. These teachers have expressed that the current system does not offer many career pathways other than those that lead to the administrator level, thus taking them out of the classroom. 

It just makes sense to keep our best teachers in the classroom, and we can do this by focusing on teacher empowerment and expanding the teacher career ladder. Oklahoma educators should be empowered to do the best job they can do by having access to helpful and practical professional development and the opportunity for greater responsibility, autonomy and pay. 

Change begins by uncovering and listening to the issues of today, so that we can have insightful and educated conversations about the solutions for tomorrow. This recent one day school closure in our state should inspire us all to work together to build the education system our students need.

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