NEW IBERIA, La. — Iberia Parish school bus drivers held a protest today, asking for a raise - because they say they haven't seen one in 20 years.
Bus Driver Association President Karen Simon said the group was "standing in solidarity about cost of living in increase in which we have not received in 20 years."
They say they need the money to purchase basic things in life. Their cost of living increase has not been addressed for bus drivers and when asked, twice, to be put on the school board agenda, they have been told no, she tells KATC.
"We are told we are important because we are the first to see children in the morning. We are tasked with bringing precious cargo to school," she says. "We are stressed financially and become difficult. We are asking them to look at the representation here and all stand an ask to see us.
"If we are important, then show us."
Here's the statement we received from the shcool system:
"Over the last four years, Iberia Parish has lost a significant amount of students, which substantially reduces the MFP. The district has had to make budget adjustments annually to compensate for the loss in State funding. Additionally, the district is experiencing substantial declines in revenue from investments along with increased costs for utilities, maintenance, and employer Teacher Retirement contributions. Those are the reasons that no Cost of Living salary adjustments can be considered for any employees including bus drivers. Additionally, in previous years the district has ended in a deficit. Raises cannot be considered when a district is operating in a deficit. Last year we did not end in a deficit, but it was not a true picture due to the pandemic and schools closing in March and not reopening until September. This year we can truly see how well we are doing and we are hopeful that we will end in a surplus. If that happens, discussions of giving a raise to all employees can begin with board approval.
"The request to put on the school board's agenda a request for a raise for bus drivers was denied because the district cannot consider pay increases for any group of employees at this time until the budget is reviewed. Additionally, it would not be prudent to consider a pay increase for one individual group of employees exclusive to others. The school board has been making very tough decisions over the last few years to put themselves in a position to provide across the board pay increases. Hopefully, that will be possible soon."
The statement was sent to us by Jennifer Joseph, Assistant Superintendent of Administration for the Iberia Parish School District.
The drivers say say that due to COVID-19 there is no funding, not enough money in the budget.
"We have been told that everyone deserves a pay raise. Principals speak for principals, teachers speak for teachers," she says.
They were denied twice and hope they will see and understand that they are coming together as a group to show them the seriousness and severity of the situation.
As bus drivers, they say that someone has to do the hard work they are tasked with. they would like to be compensated for it.
"If we are told how important we are, we would like to be shown," she says.