WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Drivers education, a rite of passage for many teens, is losing state funding and putting the financial burden on schools.
This has parents, students and educators wondering how safe our roads will be once the state stops fueling the program.
“If we were to do our jobs the way our politicians do their jobs, we would lose our jobs,” Laney High School drivers ed teacher Alan Sewell said.
This is because state leaders decided starting in July 2015 drivers education will no longer be paid out of the Highway Fund. Instead, local school boards will have to foot the bill. On top of that, schools can only charge each student a fee of up to $65 to offset the cost of the course, but Sewell says that won’t cover the expenses.
If school districts cannot help, Sewell says kids could be spending up to $400 for a course through a private driving school. If they can’t afford it, they have to wait until they turn 18 to get their license.
Without the drivers ed course she is taking this summer, student Kyra Bradley says her first day on the road would have been completely different. Bradley paid $25 for her course, but if the price goes up, she says many won’t take drivers ed at all.
“Not a lot of kids will take it, and they’ll wait, and they won’t be as comfortable, and probably they will get in more car wrecks,” she said.
In one the most dangerous counties in North Carolina to drive in, parent Barry Key, who is also a Wilmington Police captain, worries simple mistakes could cause major accidents.
“Without the proper training and experience, you get a lot of people that are not paying attention, they’re easily distracted, or not understanding the road itself,” Key said.
New Hanover County Schools Deputy Superintendent Dr. Rick Holliday says the $65 fee for students will not even come close to covering the cost of drivers ed. He says the district will have to do some serious pencil sharpening to figure out how they will fund the course.