With the future of funding for driver’s education in limbo, Sampson County Schools officials are on the fence about suspending the program.
North Carolina’s lawmakers made a decision to eliminate funding for the mandated program on July 1, which may cause a burden for many school districts such as SCS. The matter is one the issues which is holding back the budget. Gov. Pat McCrory granted legislators an August deadline and a final budget may be presented soon.
Herb Sanderson, director of driver’s education for SCS, hopes that the General Assembly will come together to make a decision to fully fund the program.
“At this point in time we as administrators do not know what’s behind the General Assembly’s door No. 1 or doors No. 2 and No.3,” Sanderson said questioning where the money for the program will come from or other options. “Only they hold the keys to those doors and the future of Driver’s Education in this state. This decision that our legislators hold affects the lives of everyone who operates a motor vehicle on our highways.”
In addition, Sanderson believes the decision may affect the livelihood of instructors “who risk their lives each and every day to make our highways and byways safe.” The decision will affect 10 instructors, selected teachers who work on a part-time basis.
“In conversing with our instructors, I jokingly tell them that at this point, I remain pessimistically optimistic,” Sanderson said. “However, I do have faith that our legislators will come together and make the right decision.”
Superintendent Dr. Eric Bracy said the matter is scheduled to be discussed during an upcoming work session with the Sampson County Board of Education.
“I think driver’s ed is a critical program and an important program,” Bracy said. “I hope it’s still funded by the state next year.”
Each year funding varies based on students 14 1/2 years old. Previously, the state was funding driver’s education at $191 per student and the district received more than $140,000 for the current 2014-2015 school year. Plus, the district charged a $65 fee to help with costs associated with the program. As of right now, state funding has been eliminated, leaving Sampson County Schools to rely on fees.
Driver’s education is a required program and if state officials are not sending money, Sanderson said funds will have to be absorbed from somewhere else. He said there’s been discussions about online instruction, lessons at community colleges or parents teaching their own children how to drive.
“This is all speculation and no one knows what’s going to happen,” Sanderson said. “Only the General Assembly knows at this time.”
Sanderson said one of his biggest fears is the program getting abolished all across the state. A couple of his concerns is high insurance rates or teenagers becoming involved in more accidents on the road. For parents who are concerned about where their child may end up in the program, Sanderson encouraged them to be patient, since they’re at the mercy of the legislators.
“It’s all left in the hands on the legislators,” Sanderson said. “They hold the future of driver’s ed, funding and what’s going to happen next.”