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Education
An in-depth look at our region's emerging economic, social, political and cultural identity.

Driver's Ed Funding And Requirement To Take It In Limbo

Student_driver_SB_on_N_Gregson_St_in_Durham.jpg
Ildar Sagdejev / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/1.0/deed.en
/
A student driver in Durham, N.C.

Many districts have either stopped offering driver’s education or, like CMS, plan to next week when the temporary budget expires, leaving many kids in the lurch.

“These kids, all of us, are driving very powerful vehicles on the highway at relatively high speeds.  They’re lethal,” says a House budget writer Craig Horn of Union County.    

“We want to make sure our kids are getting trained properly, that they’re getting both the academic part, as well as the behind-the-wheel part,” says Horn. 

Current state law requires 16- and 17- year olds to take driver’s education to get a license. 

If the Senate’s budget goes through, these drivers wouldn’t have to.  But they would have to show they have 85 hours of driving with an adult who has a license, up from 60 hours, and score at least 85 percent on the written test.  These would be the requirements whether or not a student takes driver’s education. 

Over the past few years, North Carolina students have been taking on more of the cost of courses.  School districts can now charge up to $65 to take driver’s ed.  In CMS, it’s $55. 

Last month, Governor Pat McCrory said he thinks students and their families should pay more of the cost. 

“If you can’t afford driver’s education can you even afford a car or the insurance? I think more of the cost of driver’s education should be transferred to the people actually taking the driver’s education,” said McCrory.  

If families were to pay the ticket price, the N.C. Department of Public Instruction estimates a course would cost between $300 and $400. The state spends about $26 million each year subsidizing the courses. 

Representative Horn thinks there’s room to improve the program and cut those costs, but he thinks there needs to be a consensus on how to do that, before dropping state funding altogether.