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Should Wisconsin bring back universal driver’s education? Gov. Evers and Rep. Donovan think so

"I think driver's education is something that we need to rethink,” Gov. Tony Evers told TMJ4 News.
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Posted at 4:33 PM, Apr 11, 2023

MILWAUKEE — A bipartisan group of lawmakers believes the state should bring back universal driver’s education in order to make Wisconsin roads safer.

The state stopped reimbursing school districts for driver’s ed nearly 20 years ago.

Stevie Davis has been a private driver’s ed instructor in Milwaukee for decades.

"I take pride in what I do,” he said. “I want to be the best in what I do."

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He teaches high school teens who need driver’s ed to get a license and adults who can skip it altogether once they turn 18.

“Do you think too many teens are unable to afford driver’s education?” TMJ4 reporter Ben Jordan asked.

"Yes, Some of the adults I had, they're 18, 19, in their early 20s and I ask them, 'Why didn't you take driver's ed in high school?’ And they told me that's the reason why, they didn't have enough money,” Davis said.

U.S. Census Bureau data shows there are roughly 140,000 people ages 16 and 17 in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation says 86,000 students that age have completed driver’s ed. That adds up to about 61 percent of eligible students under the age of 18.

"I think driver's education is something that we need to rethink,” Gov. Tony Evers told TMJ4 News.

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Gov. Evers says he thinks the solution is bringing back universal driver’s ed.

"Obviously it's kind of fallen off most people's plates,” he said.

Until 2004, the state set aside $3.8 million each year to reimburse school districts that were required to offer driver’s ed as a class in high school. It paid schools $100 per student to participate.

Flash forward to this year and the Wisconsin Insurance Alliance is pushing the state to use the $6 million it pays to Wisconsin in industry fees to fund driver’s ed for students on free or reduced lunch. Gov. Evers thinks it should be available to all students regardless of family income.

"Driver's ed is not all that expensive,” he said. “Just segmenting a group of people saying, 'Well, if you're on free or reduced lunch you're more likely later to drive inappropriately’, I think that's a stretch.”

Republican State Representative Bob Donovan also believes it’s a critical investment.

"I would even support that it be mandatory for our kids to take those classes,” he said.

Rep. Donovan says he’s working on legislation in an effort to make it a reality.

“What would need to take place in order to convince a majority of lawmakers that it’s worth the cost?” Jordan asked.

"I like the fact that in my discussions with the insurance industry, they're willingness to put up some money towards this effort,” Rep. Donovan replied. “I think it makes a lot of sense and I think it would pay dividends down the road."

Rep. Donovan admits the proposal wouldn’t address reckless drivers who are already behind the wheel, but he thinks it could make a difference for the next generation of drivers.


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