Senate budget writers want to drop the state’s cap on driver education fees, while offering a reimbursement for families to help partially cover the cost of public-school and private driving programs.
The budget provision sets up another potential fight with the House over the fate of driver’s ed. In 2015, the Senate budget called for cutting funding for driver’s ed at public schools, citing a report that found no consistency across the state in overseeing driver’s ed teachers.
The House pushed to keep funding intact, and the disagreement became part of a lengthy budget stalemate before negotiators agreed to keep the program. While the funding was in limbo, Wake County was among school districts that suspended their programs.
This year’s Senate budget plan would eliminate the maximum fee of $65 for public-school driver’s ed, which would allow districts to charge families for the full cost of the program. The state would then reimburse families up to $275 for the cost of driver’s ed – whether they choose to take the class through a school or a private company.
School districts offering driver’s ed would have to exempt low-income families from the fees, but the schools would be eligible to get reimbursements for those students.
Sen. Chad Barefoot, a Wake Forest Republican who supports the budget provision, says the change makes sense because driver’s ed is “delivered differently across the state,” as some schools run programs themselves while others contract with a private company.