Parents could pay higher costs for driver's ed program

by: Sarah Rosario Updated:

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NORTH CAROLINA —

With state lawmakers still working to hammer out a budget deal, one decision many parents will be looking out for is cuts to the driver's education program.

The Senate's proposal cuts funding for the course altogether which means parents could end up paying hundreds of dollars.

Eyewitness News spoke to local parents who say the money saved is not worth the lives it could cost.

"$26 million is a small price to pay for safe driving. I think it will cost more in the long run," said Chris Sanchez, a parent.

When these parents heard about the Senate's plan to cut $26 million needed for the driver's education program they were shocked.

"My son who's 15 just went through driver's ed in May and June," said parent Vanessa McPherson.

McPherson paid for her son to take the program at school.

Currently schools can charge up to $55 for the driver's education course. However the Senate's proposal removes that cap which would allow schools to charge parents the true cost of the program, which ranges anywhere from $300 to $350. 

"For us if that wasn't provided we would find another way to pay for it but I think there are a lot of families who would go without," said McPherson.

The House’s budget proposes no changes at all. CMS Driver Education Specialist Connie Sessoms was attending a conference out-of-state but agreed to speak with Channel 9 over the phone.

"We are waiting on pins and needles to see what our state budget is going to look like," said Sessoms.

Sessoms said until a decision is made CMS drivers ed classes will continue as scheduled. The course teaches both in class and behind-the-wheel training.

Eyewitness News was there over the weekend for the opening of a safe teen driving academy. Safety and Health Council of North Carolina President Chip McDonald said the course is vital for teens on the road.

"The leading cause of death in teenagers is motor vehicle crashes," McDonald said.

We found several online petitions asking lawmakers to keep the program. A budget deal was supposed to be made by July 1. CMS says it is expecting a decision by the end of the month.

The school system said 3,000 teenagers are taking the class this summer, and 13,000 students in Charlotte alone take driver’s ed each year. Driver’s Ed is mandatory for teens who want a license before the age of 18.