In each of the previous two budgets drastic cuts were made in the Driver's Education program. Each county receives funds to pay for the program and with state cuts the counties have been stretched to the limit. Salaries for instructors have been slashed, worn out vehicles haven't been replaced and classroom materials are nonexistent.
The senate budget cuts 28 million from DPI's bus transportation in 2014-15 and transfers from the highway fund to DPI the 26 million Driver's Education fund. It then instructs DPI to decide how much of that to use for buses and how much for DE. In 2015-16 the 26 million DE fund (either from the Highway fund or DPI) is eliminated all together.
Most driver's education instructors are teachers and this is one way they supplement their incomes in order to make ends meet. With this income they are better able to remain in counties that provide little if any local teacher supplement rather than relocate to counties like Wake and Orange, leave teaching all together, or take positions out of state.
If parents are forced to pay hundreds of dollars for DE the number of young people taking the course will be drastically reduced. The number of 18 year olds with no driving experience that simply show up at the DMV and become fully licensed will be greatly increased. The number of unlicensed and uninsured 15-18 year olds driving illegally will be greatly increased. The number of fatal accidents will increase as will property damage accidents. The highway will be less safe for all of us and auto insurance rates will increase as well.
The graduated license system that begins with 14 and a half year olds taking a 30 hour class and driving six hours with an instructor, progresses through the learner's permit and provisional license, and concludes at 18 when drivers assume the same status as veteran drivers has worked well. It is shortsighted and irresponsible of the state senate to make these cuts. One has to wonder about their motivation.