2/8/2006Illinois Pads Budget with High School Driving Tax
Schools and state officials overcharge high school students to help balance their budgets.
Illinois high schools are overcharging students who are learning to drive and diverting surplus funds into lavish spending on unrelated programs. State law caps the maximum fee a school is allowed to charge for driver education fee at $50, but the Illinois State Board of Education has granted waivers to over eighty percent of Chigago schools. This allows fees as high as $500, even though the true cost of the education provided can be one-tenth the amount.
Use of the waiver exploded in 2003 as financial mismanagement drove many school districts into red ink. The legislature and the office of Governor Rod Blagojevich (D) have joined in by approving budgets that have removed $13 million of the teenagers' money out of the special fund set aside for driving instruction in the state.
Palatine High School in Chicago, for example, took in $434,731 with its driver education "fees," of which only $71,443 was actually spent on driver education in 2003-04. Since then, the school raised its fee from $250 to $350.
"We checked with the state, and everything was done correctly," David Torres, Palatine's associate superintendent for business told the Chicago Tribune whose investigation uncovered the practice.