The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday February 1st

Drivers ed money back on the table

The deal on the table proposes funding drivers education programs at the current level of more than $26 million. Rep. Verla Insko, D-Orange, said the main concession is that the General Assembly will continue to evaluate the program, leaving drivers education vulnerable to a similar threat of defunding next May.

“I’m glad that we have funding this year. I think that it’s a really important program that we need to continue,” Insko said.

Mark Smith, North Carolina Driving School’s director of operations, said the state distributes money to county school systems based on the number of freshman. But after reductions, the budget distributes only $191 per student, he said. The money is hardly enough to support the program.

“Really funding needs to be about $250 per student,” Smith said. “But you have to be able to work with what funding is provided.”

Smith said this is the closest the program has come to disappearing since its inception in 1927.

Drivers education came under fire in March after the General Assembly’s Program Evaluation Division released a report that found the program deficient with 46 percent of students failing the DMV test between 2007 and 2013.

Since the report’s release in March, House and Senate Republicans have disputed a solution for the program, causing budget talks to last into September for only the third time since 1960, said Sarah Curry, director of fiscal policy studies at the John Locke Foundation.

N.C. State Political Science Professor Steven Greene was surprised lawmakers would suggest defunding the program because it has issues.

“To go from saying ‘Hey, we need to do this better or different’ to say ‘Oh, let’s just get rid of it’ seems pretty preposterous to me,” he said.

If driver’s education funding ceases in the future, families could pay $400 for a private course, said Terry Stoops, director of education studies at the John Locke Foundation. Smith said the maximum fee counties are allowed to charge now is $65.

Rep. Yvonne Holley, D-Wake, said she was pleased the state would continue funding.

“There were many reasons why drivers ed was implemented many years ago, and now that we have even more drivers and higher speeds, it’s even more important now than before,” said Holley.


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