Education

Parents, teens may have to foot bill for driver's ed classes

Posted June 3

— The budget passed by the state Senate last weekend eliminates state funding for driver's education courses at public schools statewide, starting next summer, meaning parents and teens might have to start footing the cost of the training.

State law requires 30 hours of classroom work and six hours of behind-the wheel instruction for anyone under 18 to get a driver's license.

The state picked up the whole tab for driver's ed until 2011, when budget cuts forced school districts to start charging fees for the classes.

Now, classes in Wake County cost teens $55. Eliminating the state subsidy altogether could drive the cost as high as the $300 to $400 charged for private instruction, unless districts are able to shuffle local funds around to cover some of the expense.

"I'm just wondering how they're going to pull that off with driver's ed being required for kids to get their permit," said Toni Talton, whose 15-year-old daughter is getting her permit. "I know a lot of families won’t be able to afford driver’s ed."

Destiny McClane, 17, said she isn't sure she could afford the higher cost but added that she can't afford not to have a license.

"My mom works a lot, so with me getting ready to get my license, it will help her a lot more when she's at work. My sisters will need rides from school," McClane said.

Devin Tanner, who oversees the driver's ed program for the Wake County Public School System, said studies show teen drivers who go through a graduated license program, including driver's ed classes, have fewer fatal accidents than those who don't and simply get their licenses after they turn 18.

"If families have to pay more, some families may opt to hold their kids back until they're 18 years old, and they become part of that statistic," Tanner said. "There’s no substitute for good instruction, especially when there’s no experience on the kids’ part."

Driving instructor Jimmy Ray said he likewise worries about increased fatalities among teen drivers in North Carolina if driver's ed becomes more of a luxury item.

"Is that a road we want to go down?" Ray asked.

22 Comments

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  • tgiv Jun 4, 3:48 p.m.

    Another stupid idea out of the Legislature. My daughter just had yet another frustrating and incompetent DMV experience. Now they are forcing parents to pay $300 for a proven safety measure. Which lobbyist is getting the money that was going to driver's ed?

    We're paying more in taxes and getting less in services. That's not what was advertised.

  • lazydawg58 Jun 4, 3:04 p.m.

    Maybe the school districts can use the money they save on providing Drivers Ed and give it to... View More

    — Posted by doser

    Classroom teachers are the driver education teachers. In many poor rural counties the second job of teaching driver's education is the only thing that keeps us above water financially. Unlike counties like Wake and Orange we get little or no supplement. If the program is no longer state funded these counties will be unable to fund it locally. Fewer families will be able to pay for instruction. Most of the instructors will loose important income for their families. Young people will be ill prepared for the road. The general public will be less safe on the highway.

  • lazydawg58 Jun 4, 2:34 p.m.

    State funding for the program has been drastically slashed in the last two years. Now it appears that they intend to eliminate it completely. When young people no longer go through the graduated licensing process in large numbers you can count on two major consequences. There will be an increase in the number of unlicensed, uninsured drivers traveling our roads and there will be a significant increase in the number of people getting their license for the first time with no preparation, experience, or driving restrictions. Expect accident rates to go up and as a result your auto insurance. Young inexperienced drivers need an organized, regulated process in order to insure their safety as well as our own. The driver's education program in concert with parents and the DMV allow for that process to take place. The General Assembly continues to illustrate with their actions just how short sighted and misguided they really are.

  • doser Jun 4, 1:19 p.m.

    Maybe the school districts can use the money they save on providing Drivers Ed and give it to the classroom teachers as a raise!

  • Homeward Jun 4, 10:17 a.m.

    My younger daughter's high school admitted she "fell through the cracks" in getting driver's ed - their mistake not ours. So we juggled our budget and paid $300 for the private lessons. It was worth every penny vs the public school "course" her sister took (all *her* driving time was shared over 2 days w/ 2 or 3 other teens). I wish both girls had gotten the benefit of the private version.

  • WralCensorsAreBias Jun 4, 9:13 a.m.

    Sounds like most of you would support making parents/kids/families pay for those free bus rides they get every day as well.

    That is something that should have taken place years ago.

    Maybe it will get traction now that the public seems so willing to make parents pay for all the "extras" that come with public schooling.

  • rynmich92 Jun 4, 9:05 a.m.

    My daughter just went through drivers ed where we had to pay. It has it's pros and cons. One, it is not $300. It costs $35. Furthermore my frustration with paying is the fact each county is compensated for a student to take drivers ed through taxes, yet I still had to pay. Everyone will be paying double eventually because you pay taxes and pay the fee for the class. They should eliminate one or the other. Another thing I don't care for much is the fact we have to pay for the class and permit test even though the same test they take in class is identical to the one they take at the DMV. Accordingly it is supposedly in the works to not have to go to the DMV to get your learner's permit after completing the class because it is redundant and it is paying more. Students can not retake the class like they used to if failing or missing classes.

  • jcpmoore Jun 4, 8:46 a.m.

    The challenge this poses is to those poor families that are struggling to get enough food on the table as it is. They don't have $300 to get that kid driving instruction. They don't have extra time to take the child to private lessons, either. They were hoping to get a license for that child so he can work and cover the insurance himself while bringing in additional money for food. What scares me is the higher number of traffic accidents that will occur from those kids waiting until they are eighteen to get a license with almost no instruction.

  • sisu Jun 3, 7:59 p.m.

    I'm totally okay with this. For a few years we moved out of state. That state required families to pay. It was about $105 in the early 80's. It should be the family's responsibility, not the state's.

  • miseem Jun 3, 7:48 p.m.

    GREAT NEWS... taxpayers should not be responsible for teaching kids to drive. Driving is a... View More

    — Posted by mep

    Lots of thing in school are privileges - art, music, sports. Let's make parents pay for those too. Some people consider subjects like history, English, social studies and other "liberal arts" type subjects unnecessary intrusions into a proper education. And despite some comments to the contrary, some people will have trouble paying for both the training fee and insurance. On a limited income, the extra $300 may be a problem. That comes out before the kid gets a license. Afterward, they may be working to cover their insurance. But not too many kids can get a job without a license.

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