Gas cards for parents of students in Mat-Su? School board to take it up next week, as bus driver strike continues


With parents and guardians now driving children to school in the Mat-Su, the Mat-Su Borough School Board is looking for ways to help. Gift cards for gas may be the answer.

Bus drivers who are members of Teamsters Local 959 went on strike a week ago Tuesday over a contract negotiation impasse with Durham Student Services, the company that has the bus contract with the school district. Even if the strike ends before the school board meets, the board may decide to issue gas gift cards to parents to help out families.

The matter of gas gift cards came up at a joint meeting of the school board and the borough Assembly on Monday, and some consideration was given to calling for an emergency school board meeting. But in the end, the board, through consultations with its lawyer, determined there is no actual emergency, as defined by borough law, and that the matter can wait a week and be taken up on the regular school board agenda.

The details about how the gas gift cards would be issued still need to be worked out, sources said.

The dispute itself doesn’t involve the school district but is between bus drivers and their employer, Durham. Mat-Su School District is the second-largest in the state.


  1. Fire all the drivers that are on strike find a non union company to work with. Give priority to the drivers that want to switch over. Lets get away from the organized crime… I mean union Bull.

    • Brother Biden protects them. Under federal law, you cannot be fired for participating in a protected strike or picketing against your employer. It’s too bad we don’t still have Trump. Welcome to Biden’s America.

  2. This contract with Durham should never have been let. What we need is 4 or 5 smaller bus companies to get these contracts. Further more what kind of people strand thousands of kids at school. Most of these kids parents work normal hours and can’t just leave to recover their kids.

    Are the mat su tax payers going to get a refund for these services we are paying for and not getting. ??

    • Excellent points. Competition leads to better services and better competition (wages) for available workers.

      Being the only provider in town lets Durham dictate both the level of service and the prevailing wage without fear of losing work or workers to a competitor.

      If the company isn’t providing bus services, then they shouldn’t be getting paid, and that budget line item should be either carried over to reduce future contract costs, or refunded (in the form of lower taxes) to the citizens in the MatSu. Using the now surplus contract monies for gas cards is a thought, but not sure it would be a legal slam-dunk. The spending of taxpayer money was no-doubt approved for a contract with Durham, not for gas cards. They (the school board) may need a lawyer to figure out how to convert bus contract money into gift card money and how to apportion it to the valley’s families (flat-rate, distance-based, family vehicle mpg, number of kids, carpooling incentives, strict mileage reimbursement, insurance premiums, etc, etc, etc.) In the end, it simply may not be possible to legally give money to parents as gift cards, vs all taxpayers as tax refunds.

      Not that there aren’t easy, common sense answers – I find that they’re just not common when government, business, and unions are involved.

  3. We need to learn how to live through a crisis with the expectation we’d go through it alone. I say gas cards are a misappropriation
    of dept of education dollars, cause its not responsible to pay for parents gas.

  4. RIDICULOUS! Back in the day the parents would suck it up and drive the kids or keep them home. This is a short issue, and the bus drivers are getting greedy. The last offer they got was a great offer and they turned it down. I have no compassion for them. What happened to the tough America we used to be?

    • You have no compassion for them, purely because you zero factual information on the matter, and cannot be bothered to actually look into it. You see the negotiating offer that was rejected last week, and your mind is made up.

      Don’t bother looking into it, your mind is already made up, and you are siding with Durham, the evangelical bus operator.

      • Matt-
        I’m sorry you think you know all. My wife is a driver for Durham as is a good friend of ours. They and others were told to strike even after many drivers felt that the Durham offer was good. Is Durham being good on its practices? No. But handing out taxpayer gas cards to a select group from surplus is not ethical or legal. If they don’t drive, they don’t get paid. Durham should also not get paid for days it doesn’t provide services. Should wages in the Valley be the same as those in Fairbanks? No, it’s different circumstances and living. Was 1st Student better? Maybe, but they had issues as well.
        Get some thicker skin, please!

      • You are correct in that I have no compassion for the drivers. If working for Durham is horrible, get a job somewhere else. When Durham can’t hire new drivers, they have the choice of changing or going out of business. That’s what freedom and capitalism is. Hiding behind a signpost that says ‘union’ and trying to use legal loopholes to force higher benefits is socialism. Don’t agree? Then why do communist entities settle in with unions first? It’s because they are already organized and conditioned to do as they are told, for the good of the group.

  5. There is a clause in Durham’s contract with the school district to where the district can end the contract.
    Durham gets paid no matter what for remote learning days, snow days, BUT the Bus drivers do not. Durham has not supplied cleaning supplies for drivers to clean buses, nor lights for bus yard. They never keep extra bus parts on hand to fix buses, the buses lack external PA’s to help walk kids across the street.
    Should I even mention that the out of state workers that were brought up get paid more, get a large bonus, have room and board paid and a guarantee of 7 days of work….. Our LOCAL drivers get NONE. Lets end Durham’s contract.

    • These facts and more are what people that call the school bus drivers workers don’t know.
      I wish mustreadslaska investigate the side of the workers, many of whom have been doing this work for many years, instead of jumping into assumptions and instigating the uninformed public against the workers.
      There is more than what is been said in this journal. I used to highly respect mustreadslaska because I saw it as an unbiased source of news but not anymore.
      Very sad, I guess true journalism is a dream that never will become true.
      I am sure my comment will not be shared.

  6. Fairbanks used First Student for bus operations for the 6 years my daughter rode a bus to Jr. high and high school. Soon after 2018, fbks. switched to Durham. Not the same quality of service. Durham is a waste of money for tax payers!

  7. The screw up is on two levels:
    First, there is a contract for student transportation between Matsu schools and Durham. That contract means that Durham took responsibility for moving students to and from schools to homes. When the schools signed the contract, why didn’t they demand a contingency plan, in writing, for something such as this? Obviously there was no such plan in place. They screwed up.
    Secondly, the strike is between the bus drivers and Durham. NOT THE SCHOOLS! Why is the school district paying anything to cover the bus companies breach of contract for student transportation? Durham promised to move the students. It does not matter to the school why they are not doing it, Durham is on the hook for this action. The buses did not disappear, the drivers did. If Durham has a contract to move students with those buses, then they need to make it happen. Seems they can find more drivers or THEY can pay for the gas cards.

  8. Drop Durham. Idk what temporary “bandaid” solution is best, but the district needs to get rid of Durham in the long run. Nothing but problems since the start with them.

    I think the whole school system needs fixed, not just busses. The more government gets involved, the worse it gets. But that’s why I’m homeschooling…

  9. I never see reported the term of this contract. A former district employee told me that she thinks these are ten year contracts. If so, this is insane. Why not a one year contract with up to 9 option years? That builds an escape from a low ball bidder like Durham, who wants to walk in with no maintenance, no lighting, low pay, etc and who will try contract mods to build up profits later. Dump those criminals.

  10. How about you just give me half of my school taxes back.

    Durham and the Union both suck if you ask me.

    Why does the district/ borough not own its own buses and have its own lot?
    When I grew up our district had its own buses and maintenance garage.

  11. I walked to school in snow storms wearing dresses because girls weren’t allowed to wear pants. My mother believed firmly in girls not dressing like men and she did not wear pants either to do her eight hour job and walk home again then walk to the laundromat and walk to the grocery story and everything else. She never drove anywhere. People are surprised at our toughness. We didn’t stint on speaking our minds either.

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