The budget plan proposed by the North Carolina Senate, which passed late last week, could take away state funding from driver education classes at public schools in the state, making the class more expensive for students.
Currently in North Carolina, schools cannot charge students more than $55 to participate in the course. However, the cost of the course may rise to as much as $500. Without state funding, parents and students would be expected to cover the additional expense. Although the exact cost is still unknown, it could be between $300 and $400. Courses would be moved from high schools to community colleges.
An additional amendment to the Senate budget proposal would put an end to requiring 16 and 17-year-olds in the state to pass a driver’s education course, while increasing the number of supervised driving hours for the same age group from 60 to 85 hours. In addition, students would be required to answer 85% of questions correctly on the written exam up from the current 80%.
If approved, the changes would affect around 125,000 students each year in North Carolina.
“I feel pretty strongly that if we’re going to force that cost onto parents, we should not make that course a requirement,” said Senator Ralph Hise, who wrote the amendment.
A number of driving schools report concerns that the rising cost could have dire effects on the safety of roadways throughout the state, reports Averi Harper for WCTI12.
“My main concern is that you would have beginning drivers being taught by a parent or supervising adult who has no experience teaching driver’s education,” said Lee Roy Ledford, president of Mountain Professionals Driving School,. “So you have a novice driver and a novice teacher.”
The Senate plan would still require students to pass a written exam and road test prior to being given a license. Graduated licensing requirements, including restrictions on driving at night or with multiple passengers, would remain in place.
The plan would save a total of $26 million each year, which would be put toward improving roads and other transportation methods.
The budget plan was sent by the Senate to the House of Representatives. Budget negotiations are expected to continue as the House’s budget plan calls for continuing to fund the driver education program. Earlier this spring, the governor presented a budget plan which also called for an end to driver’s education funding, writes Sabian Warren for The Citizen-Times. The new fiscal year is set to start on July 1.
The current system requires high schools in North Carolina to offer driver’s education to 16 and 17-year-old students, with the state providing around $200 per student a course that includes classroom work and driving time with an instructor. The Senate proposal would offer learner’s permits to students at age 15 after they pass a written test. Students would then gain experience through driving with an experienced adult for 85 hours, who would keep detailed logs of the driving hours.