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 tutoring 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 educational benchmarks. Learn about your options.

Is Tutoring Available for Kids With Disabilities?

There are two main laws that cover special educational services for children with disabilities: Section 504 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Here's a snapshot of how they differ, and how that relates to tutoring.

Section 504 requires that schools provide "reasonable accommodations" so that kids with disabilities can learn alongside their peers. The law defines disabilities broadly—everything from peanut allergies to learning disabilites—but is designed for children who are able to participate and succeed in a typical school curriculum with just a few adaptations.

Depending on the nature of the disability, that might include special education classes. Unfortunately, school districts are not required to pay for a tutor for a child with a Section 504 plan. 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.

IDEA, on the other hand, provides for individualized instruction for children with one of 13 specific disabilities, such as autism or speech or language impairments. Basically, the IDEA provides more intensive services to children who need more assistance. States receive additional funding for IDEA services, but not for Section 504.

Under IDEA, a child with a disability may receive 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. Depending on the specifics of the plan, tutoring may or may not be included.

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 providers (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's 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.
  • Online videos: While not quite tutoring in the traditional sense, you can turn to sites like YouTube or Khan Academy for instructional videos on almost any school topic. Furthermore, in most cases, you'll be able to access the videos at no cost.
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4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Department of Education. Protecting students with disabilities. Updated January 10, 2020.

  2. Understood For All, Inc. The difference between IEPs and 504 plans. Updated 2020.

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

  4. U.S. Department of Education. Description of Supplemental Educational Services. Updated December 21, 2012.