Bus drivers and attendants turned out to the parking lot near the old Stage building on Admiral Doyle Drive to protest what they claimed was a lack of financial support from the Iberia Parish School District.
President of the Iberia Parish Bus Drivers Association Karen Simon said the event that took place Monday morning was meant to show solidarity for bus drivers who she said had not received a cost of living increase in pay in 20 years.
“We have made a request to the (Iberia Parish School) Board twice for a cost of living increase, something we have not received in 20 years,” Simon said.
“Everything has increased, they want us to list this job as our primary job but we don’t get primary pay, we have to have secondary jobs to substantiate the cost of living.”
Simon said supporters of the cause have asked to show up on an Iberia Parish School Board agenda twice so that the issue could be discussed, but were denied both times.
“We keep getting told how important we are,” Simon said. “We have to be safe, we have to provide the necessary safety measure but at the same time here we are 20 years later and we’re getting the same pay.”
Simon said that bus drivers did receive CARES Act money that was allocated to school district employees across the nation, but added that it was only half of what teachers received.
“We get half of what the teachers get for doing the same thing, why was it not across the board?” she asked. “It was stated that we got paid during the pandemic and we didn’t work, but that money was in the budget already. Why would that make a difference, it doesn’t balance itself out.
Bus driver and Iberia Parish Council member Tommy Pollard said that bus drivers in the Iberia Parish school system are also dealing with a shortage currently.
“We’re 17 buses short right now, so now you have drivers that have to double up.”
The Iberia Parish School District said Monday in a prepared statement that Iberia Parish has lost a significant amount of students over the last four years, which has reduced the amount of money available.
A decline of revenue, increase in expenses and employer teacher retirement contributions were also cited as reasons why cost of living salary adjustments cannot be made.
The school district budget has also been in a deficit, which the IPSD has cited as an additional reason that pay adjustments cannot be made.
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, according to the statement.
"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," according to the statement. "Hopefully, that will be possible soon."