Roanoke County Schools recently had an unusual epidemic. About thirty-five of its one hundred and fifty bus drivers got ill after making their morning runs. The mysterious disease, air borne perhaps, came after the school board had voted the night before to reduce some of the benefits of its part time employees.
The Board had also considered but rejected the idea of "out sourcing" the entire operation.
Perhaps the bus drivers who decided to leave the children at school and stay at home had a chance to do some reading. Hopefully they happened upon the history of the 1981 strike of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO).
In what Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan described as "perhaps the most important" of President Reagan's domestic acts, 11,345 of 13,000 workers were fired. While many predicted that planes wouldn't fly or that there would be chaos if they did, supervisors, non-striking controllers and 900 military controllers kept the towers open.
The conclusion of the story is that massive numbers applied for the jobs, the planes flew safely, and the work was done at a lower cost.
So what are the lessons from Roanoke? First, the School Board should take another look at privatizing school transportation. Second, the thirty-five drivers who used young people and their families to make a statement should be looking for work. Third, while their outstanding superintendent noted that it was an isolated incident, employees, as we teach young people, need to understand that there are consequences for their behavior.