Local News

Tab for driver's ed to slide to parents

Posted June 24, 2011 1:56 p.m. EDT
Updated June 24, 2011 6:12 p.m. EDT

— Parents will pick up part of the cost of the teen drivers' education courses due to spending cuts in North Carolina's $19.7 billion budget that takes effect in July.

The new state budget cuts $8 million from driver's ed programs across the state. For example, Wake County will have $750,000 less to run a driver's ed program that cost $3.3 million last year.

To make up the difference, the state will allow school systems to charge a fee up to $45 to take the course.

"It will be very difficult for a lot of parents to pay for their children to go through driver's ed," said Angela Sampson, whose daughter will be old enough to take driver's ed this year.

Sampson said the free course benefited her niece, Deja, who got her license Friday.

"I think it was a great learning experience for her," Sampson said.

A fee could discourage low-income parents from putting their children in driver's ed, said William Powell, manager of Jordan Driving School which handles the program for Wake County.

"We're going to have a time trying to convince parents to take it because of the fee," Powell said.

Teens do have an alternative to taking driver's ed course: "Wait till they're 18 to get their (driver's) license," Powell said.

State law does not require those age 18 and older to take a driver's ed course.

Powell said that getting a license without going through a driver's ed program is dangerous.

"The experience of being in the car, being comfortable and able to control the vehicle is what they're going to miss out on," he said.

One of the major questions surrounding a fee is how it will be administered. Local school boards will have to decide whether the district or the contractor will collect the fee.

Wake schools spokesman Michael Evans said it's too soon to tell how this will affect families in the district. The school board will examine the budget and possible fees in the next few weeks.