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Driver's education in schools will now cost $45

Kailey Mann, 15, a rising Sun Valley High School 10th grader, takes instruction from driver education instructor Trent Faulkner.

(Reprinted with permission from The Enquirer-Journal)

Driver’s education through Union County Public Schools is no longer free; students must pay $45 to participate.

UCPS received $836,600 last year for driver training. State budget cuts chopped $176,254, or about 21 percent of funding. The Board of Education unanimously put the fee in place Tuesday.

Member John Collins reluctantly voted in favor of the change. Collins said he hates to impose another expense on families, but the cost is still “a bargain” compared to private instruction.

Private instruction prices vary, but typically cost about $350, driver’s ed coordinator Jerry Cross said.

Faulkner’s Driving School in Matthews charges $300 for in-class instruction and driving. That’s a $100 discount due to the bad economy.

Most recent classes have been full, owner Paul Faulkner said. Some students opt for private classes if their schedules conflict with a school’s driver’s ed program.

About 2,500 Union County students went through driver’s ed last year, Cross said.

Cross is glad to see the fee imposed; without it, the program could accommodate fewer students.

There is no formal arrangement for families who can’t afford the fee, Superintendent Ed Davis said. Some parents and educators say the fee won’t be a problem.

“Forty-five dollars is a reasonable charge as compared to going to a private facility,” Michele Schellhorn said.

Schellhorn’s son went through driver’s ed last summer at Weddington High.

“It was convenient and cost-effective,” she said.

Cross doesn’t anticipate many problems with the fee, either. Driver’s ed also carries benefits, like discounts on insurance premiums, he said.

Residents under 18 must take driver’s ed to get a license. In addition to classroom time, public programs require 12 hours of in-car instruction — six hours each of actual driving and observation. Private programs include six hours of driving, but observation is not required.

Union County has about 50 driver’s ed cars driven daily, about 10 spares and nearly 50 instructors — most who work in the school system and teach driver’s ed on the side, Cross said.

Effective July 1, state driver’s ed programs follow the same curriculum, instead of choosing from a handful of approved curriculums. Programs are accountable to the N.C. Department of Transportation and the State Department of Public Instruction, Cross said.

FAST FACTS

 

  • North Carolina residents under 18 must hold a learner’s permit for at least six months and complete a state-approved driver’s ed program before applying for a new license.
  • Driver’s ed is offered through public and private programs, all of which must be approved by the N.C. Department of Transportation. Driving schools, licensed by the Division of Motor Vehicles, cover the same course content.
  • All licensed programs must include 30 hours of classroom time, focusing on alcohol safety, drug abuse awareness, defensive driving, motorcycle awareness and organ and tissue donation. They must also include in-car instruction.

— N.C. Department of Motor Vehicles

Written by: Tiffany Jothen, Enquirer-Journal reporter
Posted: Aug 09, 2011 by Don Mace

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