To help offset the cost of driver’s education, Johnston County schools will charge families $10 more next year.
And if the General Assembly doesn’t restore state funding for the program, Johnston parents could bare the whole cost of the course, the Johnston County Board of Education said last week.
N.C. lawmakers decided last year to stop giving school districts state dollars for driver’s education. The money is supposed to stop flowing on July 1, and if it does, Johnston will need to find $550,000 annually to keep the program going.
The Johnston school board agreed earlier this month to bump the course fee for families from $55 to $65. The change goes into effect July 1. However, if the state doesn’t restore funding, the district could pass the full cost onto parents. That would be about $350 per student.
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“If that occurs, then that would mean half of the eligible students would not be able to take driver’s ed,” said Oliver Johnston, the district’s assistant superintendent for student services.
Superintent Ed Croom went a step further, saying the district could cancel the driver’s education program altogether if state lawmakers don’t restore funding.
State law mandates that school districts offer driver’s education. But Croom said he’s heard that if state lawmakers go through with the cut, they might give districts the option of not offering the program.
“We don’t have the funds to carry it on,” Croom said.
“Either they are going to have to figure out a way to fund it, or we are going to have to cut it,” Croom added.
The House’s version of the budget includes funding for driver’s education next fiscal year. It also funds the program in future years by earmarking proceeds from a new vehicle registration late fee for driver’s ed.
The Senate has yet to release its budget proposal.
In addition to the now $65 fee for driver’s education, Johnston parents will pay $25 for the Alive @ 25 defensive-driving course.
Anyone who wants to get a driver’s license before age 18 must take driver’s education. Once a person turns 18, he or she can get a license by passing a Division of Motor Vehicles test.
Students must be at least 14 and one-half years old to take Johnston County’s 37-hour course. Each year, about 2,170 teenagers take the course.
Dunn: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104