The Transylvania Times -

Schools Address Student Driver Training - Brevard NC

 


Proposed cuts to state driver education programs will change the landscape for students pursuing their learner's permit and driver's license, effective June 30, according to a press release from the county school system.

With program funding for 2015-16 eliminated by state lawmakers, many parents are pursuing private training, while education providers encourage patience.

Transylvania County Schools is served by Mountain Professionals, Inc. (MPI), a private driving school, under a contract that ends June 30. With school systems awaiting a state budget before renewing the contract, class sessions and roadwork training for students are being suspended in all nine of MPI's school systems.

For the past year, Transylvania County students at least 14 and a half years old have paid $40 for a class that comprises 30 hours of classroom instruction and six hours of behind-the-wheel training.

With an end to state funding, the complete cost of instruction could climb to $300.

Students who already paid for coursework would receive credit toward completing their course, according to the MPI website (www.mtnpro.com).

Alan Justice, transportation director for Transylvania County Schools, urged parents to wait for the final state budget.

"The bottom line for me is that 30 hours of driving is important, but it can't replace six hours of Behind-The-Wheel instruction from this course," he said. "That's a key component that needs to continue being funded."

Superintendent Jeff McDaris spoke to the increased activity of all vehicles on local roads, and cultural shifts that mean students are often less familiar with what a car will do under their control.

"Society has changed," McDaris said, "and for many students their road work in Driver's Education is the first time they have ever sat behind the wheel.

"At times like this, when Transylvania County streets become more crowded, the sound, high-quality instruction traditionally offered in North Carolina becomes even more valuable as young drivers begin to hit the roads as new drivers."

Justice noted that parents would find it hard to replace safety features built into the instructor-led program.

"No pun intended, our instruction is where the rubber meets the road," he said. "We sit with kids, and help them get over their nerves behind the wheel with extra means of protection in real life situations."

He added, "I don't know how many accidents I've avoided because I'm able to reach across the wheel or get on the brakes. Parents just won't be able to do that in their personal vehicle when their children start to learn to drive."

Because the House budget plan restores funding for Driver Education, while the Senate version locks in the earlier cuts, MPI is encouraging parents to wait at least until mid-July to decide on private training, with the hope that a compromise plan will revitalize the program.

Justice echoed the same advice to parents: "I just don't want to see parents have to spend that kind of money, $260 or more, until we see how the budget unfolds."

Completing a driver education course is one step in securing a learner's permit and driver's license in North Carolina.

Candidates who are between 15 and 18 years old must pass the DMV written test, sign test, and vision test, and have either a high school diploma or Driver Eligibility Certificate.

The Driver Eligibility Certificate is awarded to students who successfully complete classroom and behind-the-wheel instruction in Driver Education.

Alan Justice

Anyone 18 or older may get a North Carolina driver's license by passing the vision, written, and road tests without a learner's permit or any instruction.

The Senate budget eliminates mandatory instruction for students to obtain a learner's permit. For students aged 15 to 18, this plan requires only the DMV written test (with a slightly higher passing score).

For their full license, student drivers would need to log 85 hours (increased from 60) of driving under supervision by any adult, then pass the road test.

For more information on the status of current and future students in the program, contact Justice in the TCS Transportation Department at 884-6173, ajustice@tcsnc.org.

 
 

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