MADISON — Wisconsin high school students who are unable to afford driver's education will soon have an opportunity to take the course for free.
Governor Tony Evers signed a bipartisan bill into law Wednesday that will provide driver’s ed grants to 15,000 students each year moving forward. The primary criteria is the student must qualify for free or reduced lunch at school in order to be eligible for a grant.
This initiative started out as a proposal by a Milwaukee organization called Common Ground to use $6 million a year the Wisconsin Insurance Alliance already sends to the state to bring back state-funded driver’s ed for the first time in two decades.
GOP lawmakers included those funds in its state budget proposal and Governor Evers approved the plan.
Legislation was needed to determine the parameters of the program. A bipartisan bill was introduced in early September. The full Wisconsin Assembly passed the legislation unanimously in October. The Wisconsin Senate followed with a 29-2 vote last month.
Governor Tony Evers signed several bills on Wednesday.
“Lots of good bills we've passed. None more important than this one,” he said.
“The last time we were here a few months ago, you said you wanted free driver’s education for all high school students,” reporter Ben Jordan said. “This falls short of that, but would you consider it to be a good compromise?”
"Oh, absolutely,” Governor Evers replied. “It's a great start and it will prove itself that it's going to make a difference in kids' lives and frankly reduce the amount of reckless driving that is happening in our state."
One of the students who helped make it happen was Jahmorris Torres Kurrin, who advocated for students like him who simply can’t afford the $400-$600 cost of driver’s ed. He was invited to the capitol Wednesday to stand alongside Governor Evers as the bill was signed into law.
"I honestly thought none of this would ever happen,” he said. “It is such a cool moment to get to be a part of this."
Jahmorris urges high school students who have faced the same financial obstacles as him to take advantage of this program and learn how to drive safely before getting behind the wheel.
"Their families wouldn't have to struggle no more,” he said. “They wouldn't have to struggle no more. Especially with the cost. I feel like other students around the state. It's just such an amazing moment for them they can finally be able to do this."
The driver’s ed grant program will be up and running by July 1, 2024. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation will administer the grants.