Commentary, News

As state lawmakers question the value of driver’s ed, locals raise a red flag

lw-driversNorth Carolina legislators won’t resume budget talks for another week, but it’s clear locals officials are worried about public safety if the final spending package fails to fund driver’s education programs at our schools.

The Asheville Citizen Times reports local school leaders acknowledge the need for the program, but can no longer absorb the costs to run the program locally:

“We’re very nervous that we will be given another unfunded mandate” in the form of a requirement that schools provide driver’s ed but no provision in the state budget to pay for them,” said Bill Nolte, associate superintendent for Haywood County Schools.

Legislators “are going to say, ‘take it from other funds,’ but we don’t have other funds,” Nolte said. “We’ve lost over $5 million (in state funding) since January of 2009. We’ve lost over 130 employees.”

The impasse has several sources: efforts by both legislative chambers to end use of gas tax proceeds and other highway-related revenue sources for any programs not part of the state Department of Transportation; skepticism in the Senate over how much students learn in the classes; and a push in that chamber to cut personal and corporate income tax rates, steps that would limit how much money is available to fund programs like driver’s ed.

The idea to eliminate state funding for driver’s ed at the high school level is also a troubling proposition for the editorial board of the Rocky Mount Telegram that explains:

The plan to end driver’s ed will negatively impact low-income teenagers – especially those who live in the inner city whose families may rely solely on public transportation. Wherever they live, low-income families currently scraping together the $65 for publicly-subsidized dirver’s ed are unlikely to be able to afford $300 or $400 to send their teens to community college driver’s ed classes.

Students learn important lessons about defensive driving in driver’s ed that help prevent accidents and save lives.

By eliminating driver’s ed, lawmakers will be putting everyone on the state’s roadways at higher risk.

Read the full editorial the Telegram here. And you can read the full article in the Citizen-Times here.

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