Teens having to pay for drivers' ed?

RALEIGH It is something that's on the table with the GOP budget proposal that was made public this week. The proposal would cut the nearly $9 million from funding that provides drivers' education classes across the state. So, the money would have to be made up somewhere else, which most likely means students would have to pay.

Currently, drivers' edcucation classes across North Carolina are free for students with the state providing the funding.

"Right now the state pays us $235 per student for drivers who take drivers ed ... that works out to be $3.2 million a year," said Greg Thomas Wake County Public Schools.

But that money could soon be cut, because House Republicans want high school students to pay up to $75 for drivers' ed.

"There are 11,000 students roughly a year that take drivers ed from us, 3,000 during the summer, 8,000 during the regular school year," Thomas said.

Opponents of the cuts say forcing students to pay would be a roadblock that would keep many lower income students out of drivers' ed entirely. But proponents say the cuts are necessary as the state faces a $2.4 billion deficit.

"Obviously if money is cut it would have to be made up in some other way," Thomas said.

Most likely it would have to be made up with students shelling out up to $75 for the class that provides 30 hours of classroom instruction and six hours of behind the wheel training.

Wake County receives $3.2 million from the state and stands to lose about $870,000 with the proposed budget.

"Difficult to say what the final outcome is going to be, but a lot of students are interested in drivers' education," Thomas said.

The House is expected to vote on the proposed budget near the end of the month, then it goes to the Senate which will have its own proposal.

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