When Does a School Have to Pay for Tutoring?

Female teacher assisting girl (3-5) in classroom, smiling

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A tutor can be a helpful service for many students but tutor services often are expensive. Free private tutors are not generally provided by public schools for children who have disabilities. But there are ways you can take advantage of this service if your child's school has fallen behind benchmarks under the No Child Left Behind Act. Learn about your options.

Is Tutoring a "Direct Service" Under Section 504?

Unfortunately, school districts are not required to pay for a tutor for a child with a Section 504 plan. Even though a 504 plan entitles students to reasonable accommodations, under Section 504 school districts will typically not voluntarily pay for private services of any type unless they are not capable of providing appropriate services using their own personnel.

Furthermore, unlike the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), states do not receive additional funding to pay for Section 504 services.

Under Section 504, a child with a disability receives an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) outlining the programs, education settings, and accommodations the child will receive. These plans are reviewed each year and parents have input as part of the education team.

Free Tutoring Under the Every Student Succeeds Act

However, thanks to the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) many children attending struggling schools are eligible for free tutoring

Supplemental Educational Services

The ESSA is the main federal law for all K–12 public schools. It replaced the No Child Left Behind Act in 2015. The ESSA provides an opportunity for eligible, low-income students to receive, at no cost to parents, academic tutoring known as Supplemental Educational Services (SES). 

To be eligible for these services, your child must

  • attend a Title I school that has failed to meet its state's Adequate Year Progress (AYP) goals for two or more years 
  • qualify for the Free and Reduced-Priced Lunch Program

Free tutoring services are provided outside of the regular school day, such as after school, in the evening, or on weekends. Providers include for-profit and nonprofit (community organizations, faith-based organizations, and colleges) that have been approved by your state’s Board of Education. 

Once you apply to receive SES for your child and select a state-approved provider, your school district will pay the provider directly.

To find state-approved SES providers, check out your state Department of Education website. Chances are these providers are familiar with your school district and can advise you on different ways of getting services for your child.

Additional Options

It's worth asking the school to assist with the cost of a private tutor, but it's unlikely a district would comply with such a request. If your school district won't agree to pay for your child's tutoring, here are some additional avenues to check-out:

  • Community groups: Local clubs like the Boys & Girls Clubs of America offer afterschool programs with homework and tutoring help. Libraries and other local groups may also tutor kids for free.
  • Other schools: Often, high school-aged and college students need credit toward a class and offer tutoring sessions free of charge.
  • Special education programs: In special education programs, schools provide specially-designed instruction for each child. While it may not necessarily be a private tutor, the school would be required to address every child's needs.
  • YouTube: While not quite tutoring in the traditional sense, you can turn to YouTube for almost anything these days. Furthermore, in most cases, you'll be able to access instructional videos at no cost.
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  1. U.S. Department of Education. Protecting Students With Disabilities. updated January 10, 2020.

  2. U.S. Department of Education. Every Child Succeeds Act (ESSA). Updated April 14, 2020.