Class is in Session–But Not Driver’s Ed

School is back in session across North Carolina, but many high school students and their parents may be disappointed that driver’s education is not. Driver’s education has long been a staple of the high school experience in this state. I vividly recall my afternoon class in the Northwood High School auditorium with driving instructor Ed Kitchen. I can see him now with his foot perched by the passenger-side brake as we drove the rural roads of Chatham County. What has interrupted this rite of passage at some North Carolina high schools?

The General Assembly. The legislature eliminated state funding for driver’s education programs as of July 1, 2015, and directed local boards of education to foot the bill. Local schools may charge students participating in a driver education course a fee of up to $65 to offset the cost of providing the training and instruction. The problem is that driver’s education, which has largely been outsourced to private companies, can cost a lot more than $65 to provide. Some school districts lack the funds to make up the difference.

Why does it matter? Just ask a high school student. To obtain a driver’s license before age 18, a person must progress through North Carolina’s graduated licensing system. That process begins with a limited learner’s permit. And a person cannot obtain such a permit without having first passed  “a course of driver education prescribed in G.S. 115C-215 or a course of driver instruction at a licensed commercial driver training school.” G.S. 20-11(b)(1).  A 16-year-old may obtain a limited provisional driver’s license only after he or she has held a limited learner’s permit for at least 12 months.

A person who does not participate in the graduating licensing system may not obtain a driver’s license until reaching the age of 18.

What happens next?  That’s not clear.

The Senate’s proposed budget provides no funding for driver’s education. Instead, it amends G.S. 115C-216(g) to allow schools to charge participating students the actual cost of providing the driver’s education course.  It also moves responsibility for driver’s education from the State Department of Public Instruction to the state’s community college system, which is to provide driver’s education to students effective July 1, 2016.

The House budget proposes a new fee for the late renewal of motor vehicle registrations, which will be used to fund driver’s education beginning in the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

Other ways of funding driver’s education also were proposed this session, including allowing parents to teach their children to drive.

Have your say. The state’s current driver’s education system serves an estimated 90,000 high school students each year at a relatively low cost—but it is not without its critics.  Pertinent questions include:

  • Should the public schools be in the business of overseeing driver’s education?
  • Should the State subsidize the cost of such instruction?
  • Is the current model for instruction effective?


You can share your thoughts here. The legislature’s view will likely be reflected in the final state budget.



5 thoughts on “Class is in Session–But Not Driver’s Ed”

  1. when I was a kid it was drive all you want to at 16. As usual the legislature has nothing better to do than create more laws. Driver’s Ed however is one of the most relevant courses available in High School

  2. I don’t like paying for DE via my registration. The roads are filled with DE grads and look at what we have.

    Studies don’t show that DE works, especially at the cost of 27 million dollars. Students think they know more, and I believe they do, but they don’t drive any better in the real world. Money would be better spent otherwise — maybe on better driving tests, seat and behind the wheel. (make them get on busy city streets, beltline, etc — they don’t b/c it would scare the examiners to death, and rightly so.)

    What works for saving lives/preventing collisions is keeping kids off the roads as long as possible, which the graduated license does, and this action will do, too.

    When I grew up DE was offered, but not required. I took it after having been driving to reduce my insurance cost. I learned a few things, like looking back before backing up, don’t stop looking till I stopped backing, back up slowly and no farther than necessary. That was one, then I learned to not look to see if something was coming until after stopping at the stop sign, if you don’t intend to roll through the stop. I did learn to parallel park. They don’t anymore.

    The history of DE does not give confidence in the state’s administration of it. Remember when teachers taught it after school, and they would get a Master’s degree in teaching DE? What a joke that degree and high pay was. To pass, the standard is still, I’m sure, attending the 30 hours of seat work, simply showing improvement, and then riding in a car for 10 hours with the instructor and a couple of other students, getting behind the wheel at least some part of those ten hours. (the worse of the 3 students wind up with the most time behind the wheel.


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