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Wake County schools suspend driver's ed for students

Posted August 18, 2015

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— The Wake County school board announced Tuesday that the driver's education program will be suspended at the end of the week.

Any student who started behind-the-wheel training prior to Friday will be allowed to finish but no new students may enroll, according to a statement from the Wake County Public School System. Students who have registered for classroom training will receive it by the end of the week but will not receive behind-the-wheel instruction.

The suspension stems from uncertain funding for the program from the state legislature, school officials said. Wake County Public School System chief business officer, David Neter said suspending the program was a tough decision, but it was the only option.

"There is simply no funding to provide driver's education training," said Neter.

According to district officials, the Wake County Public School System has covered $500,000 in unexpected costs for the driver’s education program since July 1 following the General Assembly’s decision to eliminate funding for the program as part of a temporary statewide spending plan.

It would cost the district an additional $250,000 per month to continue the program without state funding. School officials said that expenditure is not sustainable because 90 cents of every dollar the district has is spent on classroom needs.

"This can not be sustained at the cost of a quarter of a million dollars a month," said Neter.

Nearly half of the districts in the state have suspended their driver's education programs, according to Neter.

A final state budget is currently being debated by state lawmakers. Families will be notified about the future of the driver’s education program once a final budget is approved by the General Assembly and funding levels for the program are set, according to the statement.

In addition to a lack of funding for driver's education, the district is also facing uncertainty about funding for teaching assistants, said Neter.

"All the ways we are going to try to make sure that students are reading on grade level by the end of third grade are tied into assistants being in those classrooms and helping with instruction," said school board vice-chair Tom Benton.

The district was previously allocated $39 million for teaching assistants but the Senate proposal cuts that funding to $19 million for the 2015-16 school year.

School board members are begging the legislature to listen to their pleas and provide funding before two-thirds of the district's students return to class on Monday.

"Eighty-five hundred professional educators do not know today if they will have jobs on Monday," said Wake County North Carolina Association of Educators President, Larry Niles.

57 Comments

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  • Kathleen Lovell Aug 20, 2015
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    I have a son who has completed the classroom portion and is now in limbo waiting for his behind the wheel instruction. At a very minimum, the state needs to fund the program so that those students who have started can finish.

  • John McCray Aug 19, 2015
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    I'm not attacking you, but please slow down there Terry. Speaking of facts, it does seem that you did go back and do a little fact checking. Yes, there are 115 school districts in NC, and as of right now, according to the Charlotte Observer, 43 have suspended Driver's Education, roughly 37%.

    And regarding financially responsible decisions, yes, the school districts above have made the financially responsible decision to suspend (not eliminate) Driver's Education until funding for the program can be determined. Otherwise each district may be on the hook for spending on a program that could very well lose it's current source of funding in the coming weeks. Please be aware that I am not, nor have I in any of my posts, advocated for the elimination for state funded Driver's Education.

  • Terry Lightfoot Aug 19, 2015
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    would have to think that over my friend Ken, but it would certainly not include de-funding Teacher Assistants who are essential to good education, not supplemental. Would be funny to see what your ideas are?

  • Terry Lightfoot Aug 19, 2015
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    Yea - they are our government for the time being, but I did not elect Phil Berger, Nelson Dollar, Tim Moore, Stam or Ruth Samelson, etc. etc. I certainly will not be voting for those folks next time around. I would trust the county dog catcher before trusting Phil Berger.

  • Terry Lightfoot Aug 19, 2015
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    Whatever Kenneth...Bring it anytime, anywhere

  • Roy Hinkley Aug 19, 2015
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    North Carolina does not produce currency.

  • Kenneth Knoeber Aug 19, 2015
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    A prime example of education either missing the mark or not taking at all. This comment is baloney.

  • Kenneth Knoeber Aug 19, 2015
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    The Republicans are a part of the government. You should take your own advice as you seem callous and naive.

  • Kenneth Knoeber Aug 19, 2015
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    OK then Terry, what's your idea of a budget cut? Remember, printing more money doesn't count.

  • Terry Lightfoot Aug 19, 2015
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    Sorry, I stand corrected. According to ncpublicschools.org, there are 100 County Admin Units and 15 City Admin Units...I take that to mean 115 total 'units' in North Carolina and thus according to another poster 38.33 of these have suspended Driver's Ed. Where are the Mom's Rising Militant moms when you need them.....jeez!

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