Funding Tutoring Programs

While tutoring is cost-effective, it is also costly. However, significant funding is available, with more to come through pending COVID-19-related legislation. In many cases, successful high-impact tutoring programs will pursue, access and combine funding through several sources. 

Major funding sources include: national service programs; the Federal Work-Study (FWS) program; philanthropy; and federal funds allocated to states and districts that can be accessed through long-standing Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) programs and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) programs, as well as via pandemic relief funds.

National Service Programs: A Source for Full-Time One-Year Tutors

Many tutoring programs such as Saga Education and Reading Corps partner with the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency, to provide quality programming at a more accessible cost than programs using certified teachers. These programs apply for AmeriCorps grants that provide funding and education awards for one-year Americorps Fellows to spend a service year supporting education programs such as tutoring. Please see the handbook Service Years as a Strategy to Improve Education Outcomes for details and examples of how to develop a tutoring program using service year fellows and apply for funding. Additional funding sources are detailed in Funding Resources for Education Service Year Programs

Federal Work-Study: A Subsidy for Eligible Part-Time College Student Tutors

Employers of part-time tutors, including federal, state, and local public agencies, and nonprofit and for-profit organizations, often hire tutors through postsecondary institutions participating in the Federal Work-Study program. The employer typically pays up to half of wage payments for eligible postsecondary students, with the FWS subsidy covering the rest. At times, the federal subsidy can cover the tutor’s full wage.

Federal Funds Through ESEA and IDEA

An array of long-standing federal programs that direct funds to school districts can support spending on tutoring programs, despite common misconceptions. In Restart & Recovery: ESEA & COVID-19 State Strategies for Supporting Local Educational Agencies in Confronting the Effects of the Pandemic, education law attorneys Melissa Junge and Sheara Krvaric describe investing in “extended or additional instructional time,” including after-school tutoring, as an “underused Title I spending option.” 

In their companion document Restart & Recovery: IDEA & COVID-19 State Strategies for Supporting Local Educational Agencies in Confronting the Effects of the Pandemic, Junge and Krvaric set the record straight on IDEA, clarifying that special education services: 

  • Can be delivered in general education classrooms;
  • Can be considered special education services "even if general education students receive the service;" and
  • Can be delivered by "a variety of trained staff" including student support specialists with "content knowledge and skills to serve students with disabilities."

Together, these interrelated analyses mean that if a district is funding a tutoring program for students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) through IDEA funds, the district  may fund that same program for students without IEPs using other, non-IDEA funds (such as the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund). Combining federal funds from different programs is an important tool in supporting tutoring programs. 

In addition to the Title I funding under the ESEA discussed above that can support tutoring programs, Title IV, Part B, of the Act also establishes funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLCs). Any public or private organization is eligible to apply for these funds to support after-school activities, including tutoring (see FAQ G-1 in U.S. Department of Education Non-Regulatory Guidance).

Federal Pandemic Relief Funds

The 2020 CARES Act of March 2020 and its follow-up, the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of December 2020, each include funding for school districts through two channels: an Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund, and a Governor's Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund. The bulk of funding for school districts is from ESSER, which directs funds directly to school districts; governors have discretion over the allocation of GEER funds to school districts and institutions of higher education most significantly impacted by coronavirus and to school districts, institutions of higher education and education-related entities that the governor “deems essential” for carrying out emergency educational services, providing child care and early childhood education, providing social and emotional support, and protecting education-related jobs and childcare providers. Whether through ESSER or GEER, these relief funds are quite flexible and can be used to support tutoring. 

Initial ESSER funding through the CARES Act can be spent through September 30, 2022. The second round of funding (ESSER II) is much larger and can be spent through September 30, 2023 (see ESSER II Fact Sheet for more). Additionally, the COVID-19 relief bill proposed in January 2021 includes another $129 billion for K-12 funding. In the current version, state agencies must reserve at least 5% of their funds for activities to address learning loss, and districts must reserve at least 20% of theirs. While the state agency portion has no requirement that evidence-based interventions be implemented, districts must "reserve not less than 20 percent of such funds to address learning loss through the implementation of evidence-based interventions, such as summer learning, extended day, or extended school year programs...." While tutoring is not specifically mentioned, high-impact tutoring is an evidence-based intervention and thus will be an allowable use of funds. The final version of the bill may differ, but tutoring is widely expected to be an allowable use of funds. 

Research shows that high-impact tutoring is effective to address pandemic-disrupted learning and learning loss more generally. Although we learned through studying No Child Left Behind’s Supplementary Education Services program that not all tutoring is effective, high-impact tutoring is — and it is possible to create policy with guardrails that will ensure high-impact tutoring reaches the students who need it most. Please see our Tutoring State Policy Considerations policy brief to share with your state legislatures.

For additional information please see Using the American Rescue Plan Act Funding for High-Impact Tutoring.