Driver’s education programs in North Carolina could escape a state funding cut after an intense period of lobbying from public school districts, including Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
The state budget passed last summer cuts the roughly $27 million that paid for driver’s education programs in school districts. Instead, it directs the districts to pay for the training and allows them to charge up to $65 per student. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has said it costs the district more than $300 per student to provide driver’s ed.
Rep. Pat Hurley, a Randolph County Republican, said Tuesday she plans to introduce a bill next week that would restore the money the state has provided.
“I just hope and pray that it will pass,” she said. “Our state needs our children to learn how to drive.”
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Should it not, CMS would have to find another way to pay for the program. It costs the district about $3 million to provide driver’s education for 13,000 students each year, said Connie Sessoms, who runs the program for CMS.
This year, CMS has charged a $55 fee for driver’s ed to help offset costs. Should the district do that again, that would leave about $2.3 million CMS would need to find from its budget. But that also means that fewer students would take driver’s ed, he said. When North Carolina first introduced fees for the program in 2011, attendance dropped 10 percent, Sessoms said.
Sessoms said Tuesday the district is also talking with some car dealerships about supporting driver’s ed.