Board of Ed OKs driver’s education instruction

ELIZABETHTOWN — The Bladen County Board of Education has voted to approve a contracted vendor to teach driver’s education to Bladen County’s students in the 2015-16 academic year.

“The General Assembly approved a continuing budget resolution through August 14. No funds have been made available for driver education; however, school districts are required to offer noncredit driver education courses in high schools and are authorized to charge participants a fee of up to $65 and/or utilize other state or local funds for this purpose. This is referred to as an unfunded mandate,” said Bladen Schools Public Relations Director Valerie Newton.

She added that school district staff have been researching the matter and determined that actual cost of a driver’s education program exceeds $300 per student and offering the course to additional students would require the use of money that have already been allocated to other programs.

Newton said the board approved using a contracted vendor to provide the program and it will be available in the 2015-16 academic year for fall, spring and summer. Newton said that enrollment in the course will be first come, first served and the cost will be $65 per student. Students must be a minimum of 14 1/2 years of age in order to participate.

“The General Assembly is currently debating whether or not to even require a driver training course to be eligible for a North Carolina Driver’s License,” said Newton.

She added, “As reported by WUNC, Senate lawmakers say the millions of dollars they would save by eliminating funding for driver’s education would go toward building and improving roads. They also point to North Carolina’s graduated license program as a way to ensure young people meet strict driving requirements while they gain more on-the-road experience.”

The NC House is also debating whether or not to add back the funding for driver’s education to the state’s budget. Newton said the two entities will need to reach a compromise as they work towards a final budget.

“The Governor’s proposed budget, presented earlier this year, includes no funding for driver’s education,” said Newton.

In other business:

— The board adopted a revised Beginning Teacher Support Program Handbook. Newton said the book gives first year teachers information about things like creating a professional growth plan and the Code of Conduct for Educators.

— The board also approved two fundraiser. West Bladen High School football team made a request to be allowed to sell discount cards and the proceeds going towards equipment purchases, clothing items and food during the season.

The West Bladen High School jayvee cheerleaders requested to be allowed to sell Krispy Kreme donuts as a fundraiser with the proceeds going to pay for uniforms.

— The board approved the Breakfast in the Classroom for all k-8 classrooms, said Newton.

— The board approved a math teacher sign on bonus effective for 2015-16 academic year. Newton said the bonus is for middle and high school math teachers who are newly hired.

She said the newly hired teachers would receive a $2,500 sign on bonus their first year and $1,000 bonus in year two and another $1,000 in year three contingent on the teacher meeting al of the criteria in the contract.

Erin Smith can be reached at 910-862-4163.