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N.C. Opinions: Wilmington

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Don’t cut driver ed

From an editorial in the Wilmington Star News on Monday:

The N.C. Senate is wrong to propose cutting money for school-based driver education programs; the House would be making a huge mistake to go along with this ill-conceived proposal.

The Senate’s budget would transfer $26 million from the Department of Transportation’s budget – money now spent to fund driver education – to the state Department of Public Instruction. The same budget cuts 6 percent out of DPI’s fund to buy school buses and allows the department to make up the difference by using money allotted for driver education.

That could drastically increase the cost of the program to students and make the program accessible only to those whose families can afford the high price. According to an analysis by The News & Observer of Raleigh, the price could go as high as $300 in some counties.

That’s because the transfer proposal removes the cap of $55 that school systems may charge for driver education classes. Many school districts charge less. Students in New Hanover County pay only $25. Brunswick County students pay $45. Pender County schools charge $55.

If the state money goes away, some school districts may still be willing to subsidize the costs, but others may be unable to afford to do so.

It is in the public’s best interest to ensure that teens are well-prepared before we turn them loose on the roads. In North Carolina, school-based driver education programs have helped mold responsible drivers.

It is imperative that the cost remain as low as possible so that more students may take advantage of this valuable instruction.

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