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N.C. General Assembly Cuts State Funding of Driver Education, WCS Faces Adding Fee & Cutting Dollars To Other Programs

Editor’s Note: The following article was recently published in Watauga County School’s seasonal newsletter, The Learning Leader, which can be viewed here.

Jan. 28, 2015. Last year, the NC General Assembly voted to end funding for driver education in 2015-16, leaving more than 100,000 teens a year with no state funded driver training before obtaining a driver’s license.

The legislature did allow schools to charge a fee of up to $65 to students enrolling in driver education, but that fee is far below the cost of such programs. Driver education in Watauga County Schools cost $197 per student this year and the cost of private driving lessons is much higher. There is currently no driver education fee at Watauga High School.

If funding is not restored in the current legislative session students will face a driver education fee of $65 and schools will have to cut about $130 in other programs for every student who enrolls in driver education next year.

Driver education is required for a NC driver’s license until age 18 and the state has funded the program since 1957, nearly 60 years. In the absence of state funds, many families may find driver education unaffordable, making it more difficult for students to work and to participate in extra-curricular activities.

There are also potential safety concerns from the loss of funding. When students turn 18, they will then be able to obtain a license with no driver training and without the graduated licensing that provides students with supervised driving experience before operating a vehicle with no restrictions.

High schools in NC are required to offer driver education, though students are not required to take it.