DeKalb bus drivers protest budget cuts

by: Craig Lucie Updated:

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DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - Dozens of school bus drivers protested Monday night, giving the DeKalb County School Board an earful.

They said this week they will see the smallest paycheck they've ever received.

"DeKalb County, we have shouted, and you have not heard. We will not be quiet," Cathy Douglas told the board.

Douglas, joined by her colleagues in their yellow uniforms Monday, said they've been shouting for change for years.

"We will shout until we have the cure. Better pay, pay and health benefits and social security," said Douglas.

Years of budget cuts have reached a boiling point, one that the bus drivers believe no one is willing to fix.

"You cut our pay, you raise our insurance…nobody cares. Nobody matches our fidelity bond and nobody cares," said Lovina Howard who is also a bus driver.

To get people to care, bus drivers waved signs near the entrance of the school board's headquarters, where nearly everyone wanted to share ongoing problems.

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"They are getting rid of all of the mechanics, so that makes it hard on us. Me and her got to do four and five routes on one bus," said Cassandra Cook.

Douglas said many have not seen a raise in more than five years.

"I find it rather odd that what I may have made  four, five, six years ago is even less now," Douglas said.

Several special needs parents and teachers were also at the work session meeting, worried about how the increase in class sizes will affect their children.

"They are not looking at how that impacts our most vulnerable students, so we are very concerned about that," said JanetHaury, who is also president of the Coralwood Foundation.

The Coralwood Foundation was established in May 2005 by parents, therapists, teachers and school administrators who said they couldn't just depend on the school system to fund their school and they are always raising money.

Haury said the school board has not given them definite numbers on how much money will be cut.
"We've been told it can be anywhere from $10 million-$20 million and so we've yet to get a firm number," Haury said.

Monday's meeting was purely a work session and it gave board members a chance to hear everyone's concerns.

The president of an employee support group for DeKalb County told Channel 2 Action News that since the board is out of money, there is really nothing that can be done, but bus drivers said they don't plan on giving up for pay increases anytime soon.


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