On the eve of the vote to renew the public education tax in Sarasota County, the School Board is busily wiping egg off its collective face over the latest high-dollar boondoggle to surface in the school system.
Apparently, the school district's Drivers Ed teachers convinced the administration to buy driving simulators to cut down on actually having to take the school district's fleet of new Lexuses out on the highways and byways of the county. They argued that using a computer simulation to teach teenagers how to drive while texting, finding a good song on the radio and checking out their hair in the rear-view mirror would be infinitely more safer for the kids. Not to mention the instructors. And the tourists. It would be a shame to kill any cash-carrying tourists that came to Sarasota, especially in this economy.
The driving instructors, however, hit paydirt with the administration when they mentioned that they could spend more time sitting in their chairs with their feet up on their desks if the little snot-noses were sitting in a Disneyesque simulator in a darkened classroom instead of actually driving. "Well, if we can give our teachers more time to sit around drinking coffee and reading the newspaper, what's the downside to that?"
The School Board didn't take much convincing to spend $14 million on the simulators, knowing full well that in a few short weeks they would be rolling in the dough when the 1-mill tax extension is passed by county voters. After all, it is for the kids, you know.
One slight problem, however, has surfaced with the driving simulators. Oh, the kids think the graphics are cool, the teachers enjoy not taking those white-knuckle rides down 41 anymore, waiting for that distinctive thump-thump of driving over some hapless soul and the administration hopes to save the $14 million price tag of the simulators in reduced insurance costs now that they won't be having to settle all those wrongful death suits brought by the families of the people who have been run down.
The problem, it seems, is that the driving simulators are made by Toyota.
Take 'er for a test spin yourself and see what all the fuss is about: Toyota Simulator
Don't bother to buckle up. It won't help.