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CPS John Hancock Prep girls softball team had a playoff game against Lincoln Park on May 4, 2022. The team was waiting on their bus to arrive to transport them to the game; however, it never came, and the team was forced to forfeit the game.
They were on a two-game winning streak of 8-8. The team felt that they still had a chance to make the city championship but forfeiting the first game of the playoffs eliminated them from that championship run.
Eagles pitcher and first baseman Alyssa Lopez feels the school neglecting to order the bus is typical. She added that athletic teams at schools like hers have a majority of low-income students experiencing transportation challenges.
These schools depend on the school district to order and pay to transport teams to and from games. In addition, Hancock’s student body is 72% low-income and 92% Latino. Lopez says that she feels that it was very unjust for the Eagles to have to forfeit a game that was beyond their control.
CPS officials stated:
Experiences and lessons learned on the playing field are important to a well-rounded educational experience and we want to make sure that every student, regardless of their school location, has access to sports and the ability to play games.
The CPS official says that it is unfortunate to hear that a school had to forfeit a game due to a lack of transportation. However, they also blame a nationwide shortage of bus drivers.
During the 2021-2022 school year, CPS had problems getting buses for students with special needs to be transported to school every day. As a result, officials said they had to prioritize academic programs over sports.
This problem is more significant than just school teams not being bused to games. The demand for school bus drivers is a high-priority problem. Large bonuses and even CDL license training are on the table to get men and women in the driver’s seats for these bus companies.
COVID-19 had to do with driver shortages as many CPS drivers quit due to vaccination requirements. Out of desperation to keep those that stayed happy, they promised cash incentives. But those promises were never kept.
Many bus drivers now see themselves in a position with leverage. New drivers for Illinois Central School Buses are offered sign-on bonuses. For example, Robert Casey was promised $1,000 for each CPS route. He has two routes and has not been paid the promised $2,000 dividend.
According to Casey, their response was always next week. Then their response changed from next week to stop asking. And then Casey said they stopped answering the phone. CBS 2 reporter Chris Tye went looking for answers, and CPS said:
IL Central is…the only vendor whose drivers are behind on receiving payments. The vendor did not pay all of their employees….and caused the District’s Transportation Office to audit their payroll. will not make further payments until this company has resolved this issue with their drivers and distributed the first quarter payments to drivers.
The bus company responded and stated CPS is currently five months behind in their payments. Illinois Central representative says that CPS takes a long time to process payments.
It seems evident that due to CPS taking their time to pay vendors and the children are the ones that are suffering. The community would like CPS to explain why it is behind on its bills.
Written by Omari Jahi
Edited by Sheena Robertson
WBEZ CHICAGO: A winning Chicago public school made the city softball playoffs. But CPS couldn’t get them to the field; by Sarah Karp
CBS CHICAGO: CPS won’t answer your phone calls’: Demand for school bus drivers grows as many have yet to receive promised bonuses; by Chris Tye
Feature and Top Image by Phil Roeder’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
First Inset image by mbernero’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Second Inset image by Washington State Dept of Transportation‘s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License