SMMUSD is in the midst of a severe bus driver shortage and the district has lowered requirements for bus driver positions to try to fill the urgent need.

According to the District, there is a bus driver shortage throughout the entire country, and it’s directly impacting Santa Monica K-12 students. In addition to changing the minimum standards, the district is proposing to raise the pay for their open busing positions.

“Just as we were calling other districts for [busing] support. They’re calling us in support,” Superintendent Ben Drati said. “And charter, they’re not existing because they’ve been taken up already. So we’re going to have to problem solve this situation.”

Drati said most of the busing internally within the district is in Malibu but Santa Monica students also have needs for special education personnel and field trips. He said he has also received emails about the need for buses in athletics programs.

SMMUSD currently has two open busing positions that have been posted for months. However, they’ve been unable to find qualified candidates. The latest bus driver opening had been posted since Jan. 2020. Through July 2021 it received 19,000 views and 123 applications, but resulted in only six applicants that met requirements for the job.

Currently, the district requires a high school diploma, six months of training plus driving experience, and the state requires licenses and certifications in addition to a clean driving record.

“The district will propose making the high school diploma and the professional driving experience preferred qualifications, but not required in October,” Josh Kahn, Director of Personnel said. “The district will be maintaining the necessary certifications, licenses and clean driving record.”

In August, the Personnel Commission approved an accelerated hiring rate to attract more applicants. All incoming employees would be placed on the very top step of the range, which is $24.88 an hour.

“Even if someone had very limited experience they’d still be able to take advantage of this offer, and receive more starting out without us than they would in other districts within L.A. However, even advertising at this higher rate, it’s still less than what some private companies, such as American Transportation offer,” Khan said. “Which is $29 an hour and a $1,000 per sign on bonus, which really speaks to how dire the current climate is.”

The nationwide shortage is so severe that Massachusetts has deployed the National Guard to drive school buses and gets students safely to school. Ohio is anticipating doing the same, and lawmakers have called on governors in New York and New Jersey to respond similarly.

To apply for an SMMUSD bus driver position visit: