Ohio offers funding to increase teen driving training options

Northridge one of the few schools eligible to take advantage of $4 million grants to cover driver’s education for teens.



Ohio is offering $4 million in funding for driver’s education programs, which would allow some high schools to use funds to bring back driver’s education programs.

But in Montgomery County, it does not appear many schools will be able to add driver’s education back to their program offerings.

Driver’s education has been an issue for teenagers seeking their first driver license for years and the problem has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Private driving education companies have long delays for admission and the cost for such training has become unaffordable for many families.

Dayton Public interim superintendent David Lawrence said his large city district would like to eventually bring back driver’s education to high school students but said the district does not yet have specific plans on how to implement such a program.

Districts like Kettering and Centerville, two other largest districts in Montgomery County, said the funding is not enough to start a program, and in Kettering, the district has a partnership with a private company.

Bret Crow, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Public Safety, said the Creating Opportunities for Driver Education Grant Program is meant to increase opportunities for teens to access affordable, quality driver’s education programs.

“We hope to fill the gap in schools/communities that lack driver education options,” Crow said.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s office said the grants will be used to help educational service centers, school districts, and career technical schools establish or expand driver training programs in the high schools they serve.

The funding can be used to cover the cost of training vehicles, instructor salaries, online education, and other administrative costs.

Research by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia found new drivers under the age of 18 who completed the mandatory driver’s education under Ohio’s Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) test were less likely to crash than drivers licensed older than 18, who do not need to follow those requirements.

But driver’s education courses, even in the Dayton area, can be expensive for families struggling with everyday expenses. Professional Driving Systems, a popular program among south suburban families, costs at least $625 for new driver training, according to their website. D&D Driving, another popular program, lists the cheapest package on their website at $550.

Crow noted there are several driver training schools in Montgomery County already, so schools may not be making it a priority to include driver’s education in their curriculum. He noted some schools also contract with private companies to provide driving classes to students.

“That being said, many counties in Ohio have no driver training schools, so the Educational Service Centers/career technical schools/school districts in those areas might prioritize this program for that reason,” Crow said.



Local schools and driver’s ed

Northridge is the only school district that runs its own driver’s education program in Montgomery County. Andrea Townsend, spokeswoman for the district, said there is a student fee for the program, which is $50 this year, down from $250 in previous years.

But Townsend said the fee doesn’t fully cover the cost of the program, so the district’s operating expenses have to cover the expense.

“As Ohio supports schools with funding for driver’s dducation, Northridge will evaluate the program and how it is best funded,” Townsend said. “Providing access to driver’s dducation is important to Northridge and we hope to continue that service as long as it benefits our students.”

Kettering schools is one of the few districts who contract with an outside company, D&D, allowing them access to school buildings after hours and students get a small discount for taking the class taught on the campus.

Kari Basson, spokeswoman for Kettering schools, said Kettering schools cannot tap into the state funds because they contract their services, but said the district wishes there was funding to discount the cost of training students for whom the cost of driver’s education is a huge financial burden.

Sarah Swan, spokeswoman for Centerville Schools, said the curriculum department for Centerville has looked into adding driver’s education, but the department believed there wasn’t enough funding to start or to sustain a program.

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