Roper: Another example of climate hysteria leading to a dumb, misguided policy

Wasting money of electric buses when what we need is school bus drivers

city road traffic street
Photo by Denis Boldyrev on

by Rob Roper

Vermont has a school bus driver shortage. We have for years. Google “Vermont School Bus Driver Shortage” (as I did for this story) and the number of news hits you get is astounding. I was looking for “a” story I recently read and came across around thirty spanning half a decade.

It’s a real problem. In one case down in Bennington the public schools actually had to close for a period of time because they couldn’t get the kids from their homes to their buildings. (This is something the anti-school choice people say is an issue when parents choose independent schools, but the independent schools never seem to have this problem. Hmmm. Another story for another time….)

At the other end of the state, Essex/Westford kids are having to spend over an hour and a half on the bus each way to school because there aren’t enough drivers to cover all the routes, which then must be combined into longer routes.

According to WCAX, “At one point, we had five rolling cancellations a day that were going through our system and just creates havoc on family schedules and all the way across the board,” said Brian Donahue, the chief operating officer of the Essex Westford School District…. Kids were not coming to school, and their parents and family were reporting, ‘Without a bus, my kid cannot get there.’”

Three hours a day sitting on a bus? To get to and from a school that’s less than ten miles from your house? This can’t be a healthy situation for young bodies or young minds.

So, when Vermont received over $18 million in a legal fraud settlement with Volkswagen, our erstwhile policy makers used a big chunk of that money to retain existing drivers and to attract and train new bus drivers to solve this real problem affecting children and families in a practical way.

BWAHAHAHAHA! Gotcha, didn’t I! No, of course they didn’t. They blew the money on a pilot program to replace our existing diesel school busses with electric busses – for which we still don’t have enough drivers. Who cares about “the children” when you can pretend to be “saving the planet”?

We’d be better off buying this.

Never mind that these electric busses don’t work particularly well in cold weather and in hilly terrain – or, in other words, Vermont during the nine months of the year school is in session – and occasionally just burst into flames. According to a report by VEIC, the electric busses generally cost more than double the cost of a normal diesel bus, $330,000 to $350,000 as opposed to $125,000 to $150,000. In addition, the electric busses require between $15,000 and $30,000 in new charging infrastructure costs.

So, let’s just say if we simply bought new diesel buses – or kept the diesel buses we already have, assuming they don’t really need replacing — instead of buying new electric busses the school district would have somewhere between an extra couple/few hundred grand – per bus – to spend on… I don’t know, training and hiring more bus drivers.

To be fair, policy makers aren’t entirely neglecting the bus driver issue. WCAX reports, “As of an April school board meeting, South Burlington will now pay around $23 an hour. According to the district website, Essex Westford School District pays around $20 an hour.” Seriously? This is what the salary was INCREASED to? What was it before, a crust of bread and a bowl of gruel at the end of the day? And you wonder why nobody wants this friggin’ job?!

Driving a vehicle that big is skilled labor under any circumstances. Doing it on Vermont roads while being simultaneously responsible for not a bunch of chickens but our most precious children – who, bless them, are probably more loud, unruly, and likely to do something stupid than a truckload of chickens – deserves a certain measure of hazard pay. Just for a little comparison, UPS full time drivers recently won a contract raising their pay and benefits package from $145,000 per year to $170,000 for delivering bubble-wrapped toothbrushes in boxes big enough to hold a mini-fridge. Albeit school bus drivers are not required to carry each kid from the bus stop to their door step, and UPS drivers don’t generally have the hours between 9 AM and 2PM off.

Still, this is just another example of if you want practical solutions to real problems, and a decent return on investment for our tax dollars we need to usher in a new crop of political decision makers in Vermont. The alternative is to be continuously thrown under the electric bus.

Rob Roper is a freelance writer with 20 years of experience in Vermont politics including three years service as chair of the Vermont Republican Party and nine years as President of the Ethan Allen Institute, Vermont’s free market think tank.

Categories: Commentary

28 replies »

  1. Thanks to John Kerry and his lackey Joe Biden, 2024 cannot come soon enough to rid this country of liberal extremists.

  2. No surprise the climate deniers mirror Louis Dejoy, the guy trying to destroy the U.S. Postal Service. Don’t you just love sitting behind a diesel engine in traffic? Its great for the growing lungs of our children, too. WHAT, I ask Mr Roper, is more important than money? Kids, planet? But Never do I hear a solution for any problem from Ole’ Ethan. The “Free market tank” that buys time daily on local radio and whose ‘news’ site feeds from Tucker Carlson. Those who always support non regulation have let industry poison our water, land, air, children. And put more wealth in fewer hands. Their advocacy has let America’s infrastructure fall apart as well as our climate, our world leadership and our military. Let other countries have high speed rail while we all suck on exhaust pipes, says Ethan. NEVER a solution for the problems they help create.

    • “Don’t you just love sitting behind a diesel engine in traffic? Its great for the growing lungs of our children, too.”

      Compared to what? Mining Cobalt in the Congo for EV batteries?

      Yes, that is, perhaps, a false equivalence. But surely you see my point. Just how dirty are today’s diesel engines? CO2 isn’t the problem in that regard.

      But why do we need school buses at all? If we allowed parents to choose the education programs they believe best meet the needs of their children, as opposed to busing kids all over hell’s half acre, might we not see what a true free market can do for us? The alternatives are infinite. And who knows… we all might learn something for a change.

      • You can’t be all free market and chirp about Cobalt in the same post and at private schools like Long Trail, buses are vital for attracting students. I don’t think your post was as cute as you thought it was.

      • And that, Chris, is what is characterized as an unconstructive, ad hominem remark. No context. No substance. Clearly, little thought.

        Instead, why don’t you tell us what Cobalt mining in the Congo has to do with free enterprise?

        Speaking of Long Trail, do you know anything of its ‘homestay boarding’ program? Are there any possibilities for the expanded development of that concept for all schools, public and independent?

        And what about any school coordinating with another, with homeschool ‘pods’, and remote learning programs?

        Can’t you imagine an education system that doesn’t require kids to sit on a bus for several hours every day?

        Your perspective is stuck in the operational dogma of the public-school monopoly.

        Not smart. Not cute either.

      • Oh Jay, I’d ask a bunch of senseless questions too if I got called out for my nonsensical ramblings. Let me go through the list:

        Instead, why don’t you tell us what Cobalt mining in the Congo has to do with free enterprise? Don’t you love free markets? Congo is free of regulations, children can work as many hours as they wish for no minimum wage

        Speaking of Long Trail, do you know anything of its ‘homestay boarding’ program? I do and why should I have to send my kid to live with a host family so they can get a better education, especially when they can ride the bus for 40 minutes

        And what about any school coordinating with another, with homeschool ‘pods’, and remote learning programs? How is that better than any current system? It’s not and severely limits extracurriculars like sports and drama.

        Can’t you imagine an education system that doesn’t require kids to sit on a bus for several hours every day? Yes, we currently have one you melodramatic fool and the only kids in VT sitting on a bus for “hours” a day exist in your imagination. They probably use litter boxes too in your world.

        There, I burned down all your strawmen and notice that you couldn’t do the same. FYI- I went to private school for 12 years, taught at one and my kids attended Christ the King for 8 years. You think that you’re so smart that you can (like everyone else here) can only attack. I’ve done more to support private schools in VT than you ever will and that is a fact.

      • Speaking of consummate strawman arguments.

        Re: “Congo is free of regulations, children can work as many hours as they wish for no minimum wage.”

        I’m clearly missing your point. Do these kids choose to work in the Cobalt mines? Is that why National Public Radio characterizes the practice as ‘How ‘modern-day slavery’ in the Congo powers the rechargeable battery economy’?

        Re: “… why should I have to send my kid to live with a host family so they can get a better education,…?

        You shouldn’t have to. In a school choice environment, you wouldn’t be forced to send your kids to any program with which you have a problem. It would be your choice, based on your personal circumstances, after you weigh your alternatives.

        Re: “How is that better than any current system? It’s not and severely limits extracurriculars like sports and drama.”

        In the current public-school monopoly system, many kids ride the bus for several hours every day. Taxpayers spend as much money to send their kids to the public-school monopoly as they would for a full year of undergraduate college studies at some VT State Universities, including room and board. And despite the spending, more than half of VT’s public-school kids graduate without meeting grade level standards. Never mind the other stuff they learn.

        And how are sports and theater programs adversely affected? Why can’t those programs be independent of the public-school monopoly, as is Little League and the various AAU programs?

        Re: “the only kids in VT sitting on a bus for “hours” a day exist in your imagination. They probably use litter boxes too in your world.”

        Then what in the world is Rob Roper writing about? Why do we need school buses at all, electric or diesel? And what about the shortage of bus drivers? Or is that a figment of our collective imagination too?

        Smack away, Chris. This is precisely the conversation we should be having – absent from the invectives and personal attacks, of course. I mean – litter boxes – really? 😊

    • Really, climate deniers? No one is denying that climate charges over time. No one is denying that claim mate exists. We are actually coming out of a mini ice age, which means that the planet will warm over a long period of time. The term climate denier is nothing more than propaganda used against intelligent arguments from people with no logical argument. If the best you can do to prove your point is to call people climate deniers and to state that the obvious that it is unpleasant to drive behind a diesel bus, then maybe you shouldn’t comment at all for fear of embarrassing yourself.

    • 1) So you’re saying that kids sitting on a bus (whatever kind) for three hours a day — not exercising and probably dealing with a high stress environment, especially for the younger, due to the chaotic behavior of k-12 aged-ranged children/young adults — is good for kids?

      2) Electric buses will do exactly nothing to save the planet. It’s not a solution. Just a waste of money.

      • We need the NAMES of the “policy makers” that enable this stupidity if not outright fraud to continue. Like referring to the legislators as “they” does not put a face on individuals that need to be defeated at the poles or the state employees that need to be fired. Names please!

    • In Africa, children sicken and die from working with the elements needed to construct solar panels. Charging stations for electric vehicles regularly break down, leaving people stranded.

    • Dear Retired Nurse,

      For the approximate 100 years humans have recorded the weather, the earth’s climate has always changed. We don’t know what patterns may have existed for the many, many years previous. Dropping the theory, drama, hype and the use of climate for power and profit, show us some REAL EVIDENCE that “negative climate change” exists.

      The problem IS NOT weather. The problem is the arrogant, self-appointed, know-it-all, experts who are too insecure to say,”I don’t know” OR the greedy who won’t miss any opportunity to create a crisis of “fear for exploitation.”

      Let’s remember all of the intricacies in the placement of the sun, moon, stars and beyond. They all have specific purposes and exist in perfect union with the earth; giving us the conditions necessary for human beings to breath and exist.

      Don’t buy into the LIES!! Think critically; with common sense and wisdom!

  3. Re: “…a dumb, misguided policy.”

    Not entirely. Someone is making money on electric school buses. Just as the VPIRG guys who lobbied the legislature for solar financial backing, started SunCommon to fulfill the artificially subsidized demand, and then sold the business for $40 Million to line their own pockets.

    These folks are ‘dumb’ all the way to the bank.

  4. To all the climate crusaders, we would take you a little more seriously if you didn’t
    spew all the nonsense, following the climate king ” Al Gore ” along with his minions he keeps pushing a baseless theory, as ” Big Al ” keeps changing the timeline so he can keep jet setting in his ” Lear Jet ” promoting his agenda, a Pathetic Hypocrite !!

    When the Crusaders reel in the major polluters like China, Russia, and India just to
    name a few, normal tax-paying citizens might take them seriously, even if the USA
    was 100% carbon-free, by 2030, 2050 it would be like spitting in the ocean, it would amount to nothing !!

    With all the current policies the US is leading, fools leading us off a cliff………………

  5. Oh what the heck Vermonters can just pay MORE taxes and support another idea of the progressives and MORE for the young welfare bums

  6. Reality is where the rubber meets the road. The city of Ithaca, NY received a grant to buy electric busses several years ago. I don’t know the particulars, but they also had to spend a fortune on the installation of a charging station. The company TCAT, has had continuing problems keeping the busses running for various reasons, including a shortage of mechanics to service the repairs.

    Ithaca has cold snowy winters like we have here in Vermont, and that also causes problems for the motors in the busses’ wheels.

    Currently, the company that manufactured the busses is seeking Chapter 11. It would be interesting if someone could do a deep dive into TCAT’s electric bus saga and calculate the expense and history of problems for our enlightenment on the pros and cons. After all, we don’t have California weather as our legislators seem to think. This month five of the seven Proterra buses in TCAT’ s fleet are not road ready. That alone would not be a good recommendation for school busses.

  7. Concerning the shortage of bus drivers pay may not be the only factor. How about working conditions? Are they paid for all hours worked from pre trip to post trip? How about no work because school was canceled? Then there’s the issue of discipline. Problem with the inability to control unruly kids with no backing from the administration.

  8. The damage is already done and complaining about it now wont do any good. The solution is to fire the people that bought those buses, they made a bad and costly error and must not be allowed to do it again! Make sure they did not receive any ‘kickbacks or tokens’. And the next time, bring those proposals to the public and be subject to criticism before, not after, the spending of the peoples taxes. It is their money, not yours, treat it as such.

  9. I don’t think it’s a matter of money, or at least it wasn’t for me. I thought about it when I retired but decided that I couldn’t put up the the kids crap today and would probably get fired anyway. So i went to driving a shuttle bus at a ski resort

    • YUP, A bus driver here had to deal with two kid who thought they were cats and everyone else had to play along or be fired.

  10. Use the “Name your Price Tool” to drive a school bus. The article or comments mentions $20 per hour driving a bus, but the bus companies are desperate so an experienced driver can get hire for two or three times that rate. I know someone who was offered over that amount to drive for them.

  11. And judging by last week’s announcement edition molesting your children riders is a tax free fringe benefit

  12. Times have certainly changed and not for the better. I’m sure many remember standing in freezing temps waiting for the bus or being the last kid on the bus route after traversing from the union district school to your home which sat across from the entire valley. There are those who remember walking to and fro as there were no buses. Word of the day: Kickback. If the bureaucrats, the technocrats, and the corporate capitalist green energy goons weren’t making a bundle of profit from this nonsense (akin to big pharma), there would be no “emergency,” no taxation without representation, collusion, sedition, fraud, money-laundering, crimes against humanity, etc. etc. etc.

  13. It’s no wonder we have a shortage of bus drivers. We have and HAVE had a shortage of farm help for years. Both jobs require a commitment to work at both ends of the day with hardly enough hours between to accomplish anything. In reality it’s a 12 hour job that you get paid for half. $20-22/hr. for a job with the responsibility of getting todays unruly children safely to their destination is similar to $10/hr. in todays economy. Farmers are paying well above minimum IF they can find dependable help for those hours. At least the cows don’t talk back.

  14. The lack of people willing to do work for $20/hour is due to a federal administration that uses the power of the currency printing press to pay deadbeats more than that to sit on their couches and shoot fentanyl…This is a problem that can be SOLVED IN ONE ELECTION.