Photograph by Andrew Huang
One ritual for high school students is getting a driver’s license. But for many students, the fees and time commitments required make getting their license difficult to access. Driving school costs hundreds of dollars, which students from low-income families cannot always afford.
One proposed solution is to offer the commonly used online driver’s education, Drivers Ed, classes as part of the high school curriculum. While it addresses a real problem of a license being difficult to get, the problem is small enough and the costs high enough that it is not worth it for Berkeley High School students.
The principle problem with Drivers Ed in schools is that it’s simply too costly. Offering any new class at a school costs money, but offering driving classes would be even more expensive. It would require hiring driving teachers, curriculum, and cars for students to practice with.
Worrying about this may seem miserly. How can one put a price on education? But offering new classes will force cuts in other areas. Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) will soon have to make 1.8 million dollars in budget cuts to reduce it’s 2.4 million dollar deficit. Many programs and staff members will have to be cut, and high spending on driving class will only require more cuts to compensate for. The question is not whether driving lessons are important, but rather whether they are more important than school counselors, lowering class sizes, or arts education.
Not only are classes expensive, it’s doubtful they would be used. Many students lack the space in their schedules for driving courses. They might want to take Drivers Ed, but refrain because the course doesn’t align with their academic goals.
Is it actually that important for all people to have access to a license? Luckily, cars are not the only method of transportation in the Bay Area. Many teenagers get around by BART, on buses, bikes or with Uber.
It might be easier for some students if they learned to drive, but it would not be much easier than it already is. On top of that, not all students have access to a car. For those students, these classes would do absolutely nothing. It certainly would not make enough of a difference to justify the expense of the program that relatively few students would use.
Making driver’s education more accessible is a commendable idea. Lack of accessibility, although real, is not a massive problem. It certainly does not warrant pressing down the finances of our already cash-strapped schools for benefits that are marginal at best.