Driver Education fees could rise in Illinois

By Carly O'Keefe - bio | email

WEST FRANKFORT, IL (KFVS) - It could soon cost more to learn to drive in the state of Illinois. New legislation aims to help cash-strapped school districts better afford Driver Education programs.

Right now, 15-year-old high school students can get behind the wheel and learn to drive for $50. By law that's the most schools can charge. But a bill in the Illinois House would raise that figure to $250.

In each district, fees help fund the program.

"For insurance, for leasing the Driver Ed vehicles, for gasoline - which is probably going up to $4 a gallon," said Franklin Community High School Driver Education instructor Tim Ricci.

The FCHS Driver Ed program is running in the red. Still, Ricci says he doesn't think raising rates is the answer.

Principal Danny Stevens says about half of all FCHS students are on the Free or Reduced Lunch Program, which also means free Drivers Ed. Those students would still be covered, but the students who do not get assistance would see their costs increase.

Right now Stevens says - most families in his district can't afford anything extra.

"Our unemployment rate is one of the highest in the state, so naturally everyone is trying to make their dollar go a little farther," said Stevens.

It's legal in Illinois to get a license without a driver education class at age 18. Ricci says raising rates may make some kids just wait, which could have dangerous consequences.

"Kids who take Driver Education and drive more are a lot less likely to get in an accident when they do get their license," said Ricci.

It would be up to each individual school district whether to raise rates or keep them at their current level.

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