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Local Politics

State deficit could put brakes on driver's ed classes

Posted April 7, 2010

— Funding for driver's education classes for North Carolina teens isn't included in the state budget for next year, and lawmakers are haggling over who should pay for the classes – if the state can even find money to pay for them.

Student driver, driver's education class Neither DOT, education want to pay for driver's ed

The classes, which are offered free at public high schools statewide and have become a right of passage for students who are at least 14½, cost North Carolina about $33 million annually. Traditionally, the state Department of Transportation has paid for them out of the State Highway Fund.

With the state facing a projected $1.2 billion deficit in the 2010-11 fiscal year, which starts in July, state agencies are preparing to cut their budgets. DOT supporters in the General Assembly say they think the agency shouldn't sacrifice spending on roads to pay for driver's education.

Rep. Nelson Cole, D-Rockingham, chairman of a House appropriations committee on transportation, noted that an independent group recently projected that the DOT is about $65 billion short of what it needs to handle road and bridge construction and maintenance over the next 20 years.

"We're not going to get there as long as we continue to supplant other departments' operations," Cole said, adding that he believes driver's education funding should come from the education budget.

"We've got about 50 percent of the money we need to do what we've got to do, and with the population increasing, we've got to look for every nickel, dime, penny that's out there," he said.

State education officials said they also face budget cuts and cannot afford to take on new financial responsibilities.

"It would be extremely difficult," Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson said. "We are scraping the bottom of the barrel in order fund our public schools."

Rep. Ray Rapp, D-Madison, chairman of a House appropriations committee on education, said the funding arrangement for driver's education classes has worked for years and shouldn't be changed.

"The recommendation will be to continue as we have in the past. I think that's a wise thing to do," Rapp said.

Lawmakers said they believe the classes will likely get a green light during budget negotiations, although it's unclear what will be sacrificed to help teens get behind the wheel.

"They need as much training as we can provide for them before we turn them loose on the roads," Rapp said.

Nearly every state requires teens to complete a driver's education course to get a provisional license. Studies cited by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggest that such classes might not be a good idea, however.

Three different teams of researchers have found the classes have little or no effect in reducing crashes. They suggest the courses allow teens to get their licenses at a younger age, when they are more impulsive and less experienced.

46 Comments

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  • didisaythat Apr 9, 5:56 p.m.

    WooHoo, is your statment promoting democrates..because to be proud of only having two republican in office and a predominately Democratic state gov. shows why we are in the mess we are in now.

  • whatusay Apr 9, 5:38 p.m.

    Drivers ed should not be the states (government) responsibility. Parents, or private driving instructors should be utilized. Government should stop trying to take responsibility for everything. We don't need our tax dollars teaching people how to drive.

  • Eduardo1 Apr 9, 2:15 p.m.

    my father taught me, my children were taught by me, and our children can teach our grandchildren or we will pay for drivers ed!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Desiderata Apr 9, 11:43 a.m.

    I agree that the kids these days consider it a RIGHT and not a PRIVLiDGE to be able to learn to drive..Which is probably why there are so many teen and younger people killed on the roads...they do not take into consideration the consequences of their actions being in the driver seat! As for the drivers ed..why start at 14 1/2..the age was 16 when I took drivers ed....having them pay a fee would be wise...Good Luck to all the kids who think they can do this at an earlier age...we will be seeing more and more teen deaths as a result....

  • timbo 2.0 Apr 9, 11:02 a.m.

    Typical. This is a scare tactic so they can raise taxes somewhere else.

    Typical misdirection.

  • carolinaprincess62 Apr 9, 8:45 a.m.

    If they can keep all this "free" education at ages three and four for these mothers having all these babies out of wedlock and pick them up and take them home and pay for the mothers to "go to school" then they can leave Driver's Ed right on in the budget.
    As for driver's ed, it's a good class but it is NOT a substitute for a parent to spend time in the passenger seat during the year they have the permit before letting them loose at at age 16. Practice, practice, practice.

  • Garnerwolf1 Apr 9, 8:23 a.m.

    Really! Nobody cares how they did it back in Ohio or anywhere else. With that said, I have no problem with paying for my kids Dr's Ed. Dr's Ed or not, most people don't seem to be able to drive anyway, no matter their age. At some point, if they are going to cut spending, as most on here want them to, they're going to actually have to cut something. Why is that so difficult for so many to understand?

  • FromClayton Apr 9, 8:22 a.m.

    I wonder how much it cost per student to offer these classes? I would be fine with charging them $25 or $50 to take the classes and manidating they take them to get permits. Very few things in life are free, why do we expect this to be too? No money for classes? then you probably dont have money for insurance so that might be a good thing...

  • soyousay Apr 8, 7:01 p.m.

    Positively refreshing. I really hate my tax dollars spent on something as inane as Drivers ed, and sports too but thats a hot one. Since we are on the drivers things, I am floored by the amount it takes to maintain parking for these children - and their pathetic permit doesn't cover it. Want to really irritate their parents- charge enough to cover for the parking. Like I said before there are alot of non-parent taxpayers and we vote and yes indeed we have every right to decide where and how tax dollars are spent - and this is not one of them.

  • fkhaywood Apr 8, 2:11 p.m.

    I got a learnewrs permit in 1961 at age 15, & a driver's license in 1962 at age 16, drivers ed was not required back then. My father taught me how to drive in the Sandhills of NC, and from what I see daily did a better job of teaching me to drive that today's kids in school. I see laws being broken by other drivers on the highway every time I drive.

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