Currently, the Senate and the House are at two opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to funding for driver’s education training.
The House bill proposal as of April 20, 2015 is to not only continue funding driver’s education in public schools, but to also lower the fee to students from $65 to $45.
The Senate bill proposes two options, that the driver’s education program be removed from public schools and transferred to community colleges.
If the classes would move to community colleges, students would have to pay full cost for the program, costing around $300 per student.
And while this county is fortunate to have Surry Community College, there are only 58 community colleges across 100 North Carolina counties.
The second Senate option would be removing the requirement for driver’s education to obtain a license.
If the General Assembly decides to remove the requirement, the responsibility would be left to parents to teach children how to drive.
“As a community who has seen a number of accidents involving several teenagers recently, the community should be very cautious of a legislature that waters down the money invested into children’s safety,” said Dr. Greg Little, superintendent for Mount Airy City schools. “As a parent I want my child to have the best driver’s education experience and to come home safely every time she pulls out of the driveway.”
East Surry lost two students to fatal accidents in a year’s time: Jacob Pettitt in Fall 2013 and Gage Edwards in Fall 2014. A tire blowout caused another teenaged accident for North Surry football star Dakota Goss where two sisters died.
The DMV would also make changes. Students taking the driver’s test will be required to score a higher level than before, as well as an increase in hours spent driving with the parents.
Superintendent for Surry County Schools Travis Reeves said the delay in the state budget being passed is “putting the students half a year behind in receiving their license.”
Reeves stated, “We can’t afford to cover driver’s education or we would.”
According to nc-educationlottery.org, $3.8 billion dollars has been raised for education over the last nine years.
Surry County has received more than $26 million on lottery funds, during those nine years.
Each year in the state budget, the legislature can adjust how the money from the lottery is allotted.
“Isn’t it ironic, to use money ‘found’ in the education lottery to fund driver’s education,” said Reeves.
Dr. David Shockley, president of Surry Community College, commented on the issue, saying “Overall the community colleges don’t want to do an unfunded, mandated program. It’s not something we are seeking after and not something we want to do.”
The Senate no longer wants to place monies from the transportation department into an education program. Instead it wants to use the money for the road repairs.
“It may be something we end up doing for the community,” added Shockley.
However, with SCC being in Dobson, it could place a hardship on some families to provide transportation for their children to the college for the training instead of jumping into a car where the kids attend school.
Reeves added, “We (the school system) would do whatever it takes to help our kids succeed,” when asked if the schools would be willing to provide transportation for students to the community college so that they could participate in the training.
And if there is no community college in a particular county?
“That could create a lot of fault, in making sure driver’s education is accessible to students,” said Little.
Reach Eva Queen at (336) 415-4739 or [email protected]