The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

School Bus Drivers Swindled in Chicago

Jan 31, 2022

During the spring of 2020, 14 Chicago school bus companies pocketed 30 million dollars in pandemic relief funds funneled to them by Chicago Public School (CPS) district administrators.

A recent investigation found that bus drivers and bus aides were swindled. Funds were purportedly intended to keep drivers and aides employed during pandemic school closings so they were “mission ready” when school buildings reopened. Instead, owners used the cash windfall to inflate their profits, and proceeded to lay off over 600 bus drivers.

City officials sent the money to private contract companies without any instructions on how it was to be spent. Later, they explained that they “assumed the businesses would do the right thing for their people.

One vendor pocketed the cash along with additional Payroll Protection Plan federal loan money, and then laid off all its drivers and bus aides within a week of school closures. This vendor spent only 0.5% of normal payroll costs that spring.

And it shows.

Bus transportation has been anything but “mission ready” for the school reopenings. During September 2021 over 3300 CPS students were left stranded without bus service or any other means to get safely to or from school. Instead of providing safe and efficient bus transportation, “alternative transportation options” like a patchwork of taxis and shuttle vans are hastily organized. Public school administrators implemented consultant-recommended cost-cutting measures, including a severe reduction of bus routes, making it much more difficult or impossible for working-class families to get their kids to school and organize their lives.

Drivers and aides are angry that school administrators have failed to provide a work environment that reduces COVID risk for both workers and student riders. Prior to the fall school reopening, 100 contract drivers quit, leaving the school system 500 drivers short of normal staffing.

This school bus crisis in just one aspect of the systematic dismantling of public education by Chicago’s city government.