Rowan driver’s ed rolls through August

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 24, 2015

With state funding for driver’s education in question, many school districts suspended the service for their students on the beginning of the new fiscal year, July 1.

Rowan-Salisbury, however, will continue offering the course through the end of August.

“The program’s going on as normal right now,” said Transportation Director Tim Beck.

Beck said that based upon what he and other district administrators have been told by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, the next update from the General Assembly won’t come until the middle of August.

“We thought we would keep the ball rolling up until then,” he said.

“Normally, prior to July 1, we offer all our lead instructors a 12-month contract,” he said. “A lot of other counties have suspended it or are taking it one month at a time.”

For now, classes will go on as planned and the district will reevaluate by the end of August.

Like many other school districts, Rowan-Salisbury raised the cost of driver’s education from nothing to $65 earlier this year – the highest amount the state allows.

“That’s only a third of our cost,” Beck said, adding that the cost of replacing driver’s education cars is not included in that figure either.

Once the General Assembly finalizes its budget, the district will make a “better decision to last through the end of the 2014-15 school year,” Beck said.

Beck said the entire situation is “frustrating,” but RSS officials decided to continue classes because they “don’t want to punish” students for the General Assembly’s inability to decide on a budget.

He added that the funding issue could play out in a number of ways and he didn’t want to speculate about the General Assembly’s final budget.

“They are hopeful that something will happen that would allow the program to continue,” he said.

“If our board decides to continue the program, there’s going to be local funding that’s going to have to be utilized,” Beck said, explaining that it would have to come from the county commissioners.

State Superintendent Dr. Judy Atkinson addressed the driver’s ed issue briefly during a presentation to the Rowan County Democratic Party Thursday evening.

“It remains to be seen what happens to driver’s ed,” Atkinson said.

The Senate bill, she said, puts driver’s education into the hands of North Carolina’s community colleges.

Community colleges are “not structured to give driver’s ed,” she said, adding that there are more than 400 high schools and only 58 community colleges throughout the state.