NewsState

Actions

Free statewide driver's ed program could begin before the end of the year

"I think it's a win,” Rep. Donovan said. “It engages the private sector and I think it's going to help a lot of kids be trained appropriately in driving."
Drivers in Milwaukee.png
Posted at 9:49 AM, Jul 25, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-25 10:49:32-04

MILWAUKEE — State lawmakers will begin laying out the framework of a program that will provide free driver’s education for students who may otherwise be unable to afford it.

The state has already set aside $6 million to launch the effort.

"It was just hard for me to watch everybody else going to get their license,” said Leonard Givens.

Back in high school, Givens says a barrier kept him from learning the rules of the road the right way in driver’s ed.

"I wasn't able to afford it and the school didn't help me get it for free so I just was out of luck,” he said.

But for the first time in 20 years, state-funded driver’s ed is returning to Wisconsin.

“I think it's common sense,” said Rep. Bob Donovan.

Rep. Donovan led the effort at the state capitol to get the funding approved. Now he’s authoring legislation to set the parameters of the program so it can be put to use.

The idea came from a Milwaukee organization called Common Ground to re-purpose the $6 million the Wisconsin Insurance Alliance already sends to the state and use that money to pay for driver’s ed for students who qualify for free or reduced lunch.

"I think it's a win,” Rep. Donovan said. “It engages the private sector and I think it's going to help a lot of kids be trained appropriately in driving."

Rep. Donovan says he supports offering driver’s ed grants worth several hundred dollars to high school students who qualify for the program. That means about 15,000 teens would only have to pay for their permit which costs $35.

"The student would be required to submit a grant application, those certainly will be available,” Rep. Donovan said. “I’m hopeful that we run out of that money and all of the kids that are eligible can get access to this."

While Givens wouldn’t be able to benefit from this program, his younger brother would.

"If it's something that's going to be given away for free for him, we're definitely going to sign him up for it,” he said.

Rep. Donovan is hoping this legislation gets unanimous approval at the capitol. He’s also pushing for this program to be ready to process grant applications by the end of the year.