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Benson: improve high schoolers’ access to driver’s education

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(The Center Square) – At Kearsley High School in Flint – one of 38 Michigan schools that provide driver’s education – Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson called on lawmakers to boost access to driver’s ed for high-schoolers.

Benson and Michigan Education Association President Chandra Madafferi said they are working on two voluntary grant programs – a need-based grant to cover the costs of Graduated Driver License Segments 1 & 2 and road testing; and a voluntary grant program for public schools in underserved geographic areas to offset expenses associated with becoming a driver’s education provider, including vehicle purchases and hiring instructors.

Benson said many families can’t afford driver’s education lessons.

“Twenty years ago, the state of Michigan shifted the cost burden for driver’s education directly onto teens and their families,” Benson said in a statement. “Most private providers deliver quality instruction, but with the first segment of driver’s ed costing as much as $650, many families simply can’t afford it.”

In 2004, Michigan eliminated the Driver Education Fund, which ended most school-based driver’s education programs. An analysis of Department of State records shows that in 2000, 66% of eligible Michigan teens had driver’s licenses. By 2021, that number had dropped to 56%.

“Schools are an ideal place to provide driver’s education – we know our students, we provide exceptional instruction, and are accountable to state standards,” Madafferi said in a statement. “Overwhelmingly, Michigan educators and administrators I’ve spoken to want to see driver’s education return to the schools as much as possible. I’m looking forward to working with Secretary Benson and lawmakers to implement programs that shift the cost burden away from families and eliminate some of the inequities keeping Michigan students out of the driver’s seat.”

The Michigan Department of State currently oversees 281 active driver’s education providers, 38 of which are educational institutions. In 2023, just two of the school-based sites had a complaint or potential violation MDOS had to investigate, compared to 30 private driving schools that had violations. Benson said that when there are complaints or violations at school-based sites, they are less severe and are resolved more quickly once identified.

“Kearsley Community Schools’ comprehensive driver’s education program is an important public service that helps our students learn the skills, knowledge, and attitude needed for safe driving,’ Kearsley High School driver’s education instructor Andy Nester said in a statement. “Our students are taught by experienced, qualified teachers they know and trust in their familiar school environment. My experience tells me that investing in public school driver’s education programs is an investment in safety and responsible behavior.”

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