November 13, 2008

Tuition-Based Driver Education Adopted

The State Board of Education in Delaware has approved a change in the administrative regulations terminating the right of non-public school students to receive driver education during the summer months without paying tuition. A homeschool in Delaware is considered to be a non-public school. This change went into effect on November 11, 2008.

Upon learning of this proposed change, we complained to the state board on the basis that it was contrary to the statutory law of Delaware which guarantees that any pupil of a certain grade level or age residing within a school district be provided with the driver education during the summertime at no charge. We also asked Home School Legal Defense Association member families in Delaware to express their objections to the state board as well. What we did not know at the time was that on July 1, 2008, the Delaware legislature had passed an omnibus appropriations bill, one section of which authorized the department of education “to develop and implement a fee structure for the provision of driver’s education services to non-public school students beginning in Fiscal Year 2009.” This provision was buried in the middle of Senate Bill 300, a 243-page bill which zipped through both houses of the legislature in only 11 days.

Public school students continue to be eligible for summertime driver education without paying any tuition. This seems especially unfair in view of the fact that not only do the families of non-public school students pay the same taxes as families of public school students, but the driver education is conducted during the summer months when school is not in session.

It appears at this point that the only way to minimize the financial impact of this new law on homeschooling families is to lobby for a reasonable fee structure for the driver education. The regulation now states that the tuition to be charged must be approved by the co-chairs of the Joint Finance Committee of the Delaware General Assembly. At press time but subject to change in the upcoming 2009 legislative session, the co-chairs were Senator Nancy W. Cook (Dist. 15) and Representative William A. Oberle, Jr. (Dist. 24). The information we have now is that the fee for each student in the driver education is expected to be $362.