ASHE COUNTY — Ashe County students wishing to participate in driver’s education may not have that opportunity with the uncertainty of continued state funding for the program for the fiscal year that recently began on July 1.
The N.C. Senate’s current budget plan eliminates state funding for driver’s education while the N.C. House of Representative’s proposed budget includes state funding for the program.
House Budget writers heavily criticized the Senate’s decision to eliminate funding since driver’s education is mandatory for student’s to earn their learner’s permit.
A temporary budget was approved Tuesday, July 30 to run the state through Aug. 14, but no state money was included to go towards driver’s education which has resulted in one-third of North Carolina’s school systems to suspend their driver’s education programs this summer, including Ashe County.
During the Ashe County Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, July 30, School Superintendent Dr. Todd Holden addressed uncertain future of the program for North Carolina and the county.
“I’m recommending to the board that we suspend the driver’s education offerings for Ashe County Schools,” Holden said. “We will finish out the ones that are currently still driving. However, until we get a budget, I don’t think that it’s financially prudent for us to do that until we get something from the state.”
According to Holden, the state does allow school’s to charge up to $65 per student for the driver’s education course, but the true cost of the program is approximately $250-$300.
“What parents need to understand is that they need to contact their representatives, let them know this is going to be a hardship especially for us here in Ashe County,” Holden said.
AAA Carolinas support
AAA Carolinas supports funding for driver’s education in North Carolina because the organization believes the program helps keep state’s roads safer and can possibly save lives.
“We want funding for driver’s education in North Carolina not only because we believe it’s a program that promotes traffic safety for our teens, but also for the entire driving public as well,” said David E. Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas. “We want to work with lawmakers to make improvements to the current curriculum, but eliminating the system will do more harm than good.”
In an effort to allow parents to have an option to avoid the expense, the Senate has added an amendment to the state budget that would eliminate the requirement of all 16 and 17-year-old’s in North Carolina to complete and pass a driver’s education program. Instead, the amount of supervised driving for a student would increase from the current 60 hours to 85. Students and parents would keep logs of the number of hours driven. The proposal also states that students would have to answer 85 percent of the questions correctly on the written test, instead of 80 percent.
“The fear is that we would have novice drivers being taught by parents with little or no experience in teaching driver’s education,” said Parsons. “Their cars aren’t equipped with passenger side brakes, which can help avoid crashes.”
School districts across the state are now in a waiting period to see what decision the legislature makes.
Both the Senate and House will have to agree to a compromise before presenting the final budget to Gov. Pat McCrory.
North Carolina spends 26 million dollars a year on driver’s education.
Ashe County Representative Jonathan Jordan can be contacted at 336-846-1657 or by email at [email protected]
Hannah Myers can be reached at 336-846-7164 or on Twitter @cmedia_hmyers.