NC Senate plan could make driver's education upfront costs soar

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Parents will have to pay the full cost of driver's education up front under a Senate proposal.

It cost Bud Davenport $65 to enroll his 15-year-old son in a driver's education course at Jordan's Driving School in Wake County.

For parents after him, that initial cost could go up if parents have to fork over the full price.

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"Upwards of $300 or $400, that's a big difference," said Davenport.

The state senate's version of the proposed state budget includes a Driver Safety Incentive Program. It basically transforms funding put in place two years ago into a reimbursement program.

Parents will have to pay the full cost of driver's education up front. If their child passes their learner's permit test the first time around, they will be eligible to get up to $275 reimbursed.

"While our budget does allow local school districts to charge a fee that covers the cost of driver's education, it also creates a new driver safety incentive program, which will provide a reimbursement of up to $275 for parents whose students take driver's education and pass the DMV test for a learner's permit on the first try," said Amy Auth, spokesperson for Senate Pro Tem Phil Berger.

"We've said for years that the current model for driver's education simply isn't delivering the best results for our young people. Past studies have found that 46 percent of students that complete the state driver education course subsequently fail the DMV test, even after multiple attempts. By tying reimbursement to passing the DMV exam on the first try, we are creating an incentive for parents to ensure their students actually study and take the test seriously."

"I don't know that that will be enough of an incentive to get through that test that first time," said Dennis Bruce. Bruce's grandson just finished his driver's education course.

Lorraine Jordan runs the Jordan Driving School, which teaches 12,000 students a year in Wake County. She points out that many students are nervous when they take that test at the DMV and may not perform well for that reason.

"If we're just basing drivers education on whether you pass a test or not, why don't we all just teach students how to pass the driver's education test?" Jordan asked.

Jordan, as well as parents, will be watching and waiting to see how the incentive program plays in the House when it hashes out its version of the proposed state budget.

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