Local News

Wake County schools suspend driver's ed for students

Posted August 18, 2015 7:02 p.m. EDT
Updated August 18, 2015 11:16 p.m. EDT

— 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.