From $0 to $65: Board puts foot on gas pedal for drivers ed fees

Fees jump for drivers ed, school parking

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

HAMLET — In two decisive and brief actions Monday night, members of the Richmond County Board of Education approved a significant jump in fees related to student driving.

Effective immediately, the student’s share of the cost of enrolling in driver’s education is $65. The amount is the maximum allowed by state law. In a second vote, board members approved a significant jump to parking permit fees at Richmond Senior High School. Students are now charged $5 for general parking and $10 for “priority” parking. Priority parking entitles the student driver to access a parking lot closer to the school than the $5 fee. Those fees will soar to $40 and $50, respectively, at the start of the 2015-16 school year.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Corey Davis, director of transportation for Richmond County Schools, provides Monday night to board members reasons to support increases in drivers education fees and parking permit fees at Richmond Senior High School.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Corey Davis, director of transportation for Richmond County Schools, provides Monday night to board members reasons to support increases in drivers education fees and parking permit fees at Richmond Senior High School.

Both votes were unanimous and came at the recommendation of Corey Davis, director of transportation for the school district. Davis said both measures are to combat recent and predicted future moves by state lawmakers. Davis said state legislators have made cuts in funding for drivers education in 1992, 2011 and 2013. The state now funds $191.09 per student. The fee is taken from the Highway Fund.

Approximately 600 students take drivers ed each year in Richmond County, Davis said. The next class is set to beg at the end of February — making it the first to pay the $65 fee.

Davis noted that during the 2014 legislative session, lawmakers voted to cut drivers education funding altogether from the Highway Fund — but still require local school districts to provide noncredit drivers ed training to students in the public school system, private schools and those that are homeschooled.

In 2014, lawmakers permitted local school districts, also referred to as Local Education Agencies, to charge students up to $65. A $45 fee had first been made possible by 2011 legislation. To date, Richmond County Schools has been one of about 42 LEAs to avoid avoid implementing a fee for students.

That’s no longer the case, though the vote didn’t go down easy.

Dr. Cindy Goodman, schools superintendent, noted that a $65 doesn’t cover the entire cost of a single student’s driver education. The full cost is approximately $240 per pupil, said Davis, referring to a stat Department of Public Instruction study.

“And the General Assembly says (school districts) will teach drivers ed and you will charge (no more than) $65,” Goodman said. “We hate having to do this but we feel like this is just to offset the costs.”

Wiley Mabe, board chairman, said the legislature “has tied our hands.”

Parking fees at Richmond Senior High School will increase between 500 percent and 800 percent to come up with a portion of the rest, officials said. The new fees of $40 and $50 will more closely align with some school systems in adjacent counties. Moore County students pay $75 for a yearly parking permit and those in Montgomery County pay $40 per year. Students in Scotland ($40), Hoke ($50) and Anson ($25) counties also have required parking permit fees. Update: This story was corrected to accurately reflect area school districts’ parking fees.

Davis told the board this move is a proactive measure to counter what lawmakers in Raleigh are expected to do.

“This money here will help,” Davis said. “We won’t have to charge the kids as much” if the fee is approved.

Goodman said the parking permit fees at Richmond Senior seemed “surprisingly low” compared to neighboring school districts.

 

Filed in: Education, Featured News, Hamlet, Latest Headlines, News

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