Driver's education fees will see an increase over the next few years for the Great Falls Public School district.
The current cost for Great Falls is $150. This will eventually increase to $250 in the Fall of 2025. The cost will remain $150 for the next session beginning in January, but the first fee increase of $200 will go into effect in May for the summer session.
The school board initially voted to increase the driver’s education fees in March of 2020, but postponed it when Covid-19 took over.
“When I came forward to the board, it was re-proposing that initial plan, so currently the fee is still 150,” said Beckie Frisbee the secondary curriculum coordinator. “Starting with our summer sessions, which is May, June, July, roughly in that area, the fee will increase to 200 at that time, meeting what the board had previously decided to do.”
Unlike a lot of school districts throughout the state of Montana, Great Falls does not make any money offering driver’s education in schools, they often just barely break even.
“Part of that decision comes from as we looked across the state, Bozeman for driver's ed charges $365 per student, Kalispell, who is the lowest of all our schools, is 310. I didn't really think we needed to be in that ballpark, but we did need to move from a deficit spending. It costs more per student than we take in in either the fees or the state reimbursement,” said Frisbee.
“Some of the main reasons are the costs of expenditures, so cost of fuel, if there's any sort of a raise for the instructors that the districts want to do, and then also leasing vehicles and even buying vehicles for traffic education,” said Dwight Nelson, the traffic education director for OPI.
The average cost of driver’s education in Montana is 204 dollars per student, keep Great Falls below the average cost for the last several years.
“Fees are decided on how the district is going to provide traffic education. Many districts do it through summer programs, but some districts do it throughout the whole school year, so during the school day, either before school or after school, so depending on how they want to offer, the program depends upon the costs,” said Nelson.