Three state lawmakers are proposing changing state law to require school districts to offer driver’s education courses.
Philadelphia House Reps. Anthony Bellmon, Jose Giral, Pat Gallagher and Tarik Khan earlier this year circulated a co-sponsorship memorandum for legislation they are drafting. While the state requires a driver’s education course before a teenager can get a driver’s license, schools aren’t required to provide the course under current state law. Bellmon also wants to use state resources to help school districts provide the courses.
“Without support from the state, few schools can financially sustain a driver’s education program,” Bellmon wrote in his memorandum. “That is why I am introducing a bill to support our schools in providing their students with greater access to free or low-cost driver’s education. My legislation would establish a grant for schools to provide a Pennsylvania Department of Education-approved driver’s education program to their students. It is vital that young drivers in our state have access to education that will allow them to drive safely and also create a pathway to sustainable employment.”
At least 31 states require teenagers to take driver’s education, but that doesn’t always mean the course is offered in school. In Pennsylvania schools can offer driver’s education, but aren’t required to. Courses offered by private companies in Pennsylvania can cost between $80 and $100 and can be taken online. Pennsylvania drivers under the age of 18 have to show proof they’ve taken a driver’s education course before they can get their license. Drivers over the age of 18 have to have a parent sign a form saying the driver has spent at least 65 hours driving with adult supervision, but there is no proof required beyond signing the form.
Wisconsin lawmakers earlier this year included $6 million in their state budget to pay for driver’s education for students on free and reduced lunch because many teens said the cost of driver’s education is too high for them to afford. Insurance companies agreed with the students, with the Wisconsin Insurance Alliance working with the students to create a form of state-funded driver’s education.
A Missouri lawmaker has also introduced legislation that would require schools to offer driver’s education as part of the state’s health curriculum for 10th through 12th grade students.
“Obtaining a driver’s license is more than simply qualifying one’s ability to operate a vehicle,” Bellmon wrote. “A driver’s license can provide a sense of independence and a way for one to apply for gainful employment. While not all jobs require a driver’s license, some jobs that can lift Pennsylvanians out of poverty do have such a requirement, particularly jobs in the trades, construction, and manufacturing field. Despite the many benefits of this type of instruction, the number of school districts offering free or low-cost driver’s education has drastically declined since the 1970s.”