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Free Tutoring is an Educational Lifeline for Students in Low-Performing Schools

Op-Ed Submission to the Houston Chronicle
by Stephanie Monroe

As a former Assistant Secretary for Education and representative of Tutor Our Children (TOC), I join thousands of our members, parents and teachers in supporting stronger oversight of federally funded tutoring services in Texas and across the country. Thousands of students every year continue to suffer in low-performing schools with little to no access to the individual attention they need to succeed.  For so many of these children, free tutoring provided as part of the Supplemental Education Services (SES) program is nothing short of an educational lifeline in a system that has otherwise failed them.

Tutoring works, but it is expensive.  We have a responsibility to ensure that our most vulnerable students have access to the tools they need to get ahead.  This means not only expanding access to federally funded tutoring services, but also rooting out the bad actors through increased accountability and reforms in the system. Tutor Our Children will continue to advocate on behalf of parents who rely on high quality free tutoring, and that means finding and eliminating abuse and corruption wherever it exists.

TOC is committed to ensuring that students across the country receive high quality support from a wide range of providers, including community organizations and faith-based groups.  We have long been at the forefront of efforts to critically evaluate and enhance the SES program, including supporting federal and state legislation designed to expand access to tutoring while requiring rigorous certification, reporting and accountability for tutoring providers.

As with any program, there have been bad actors, and TOC strongly believes they should be held accountable and even terminated from program participation as appropriate.   However, it is unfair to paint, with the same brush, the many conscientious providers who are successful in providing quality tutoring to children struggling in low performing schools. The idea that we would eliminate an entire program because of a few bad actors is unconscionable and frankly serves more to penalize students than it does those operating tutoring programs.

Tutoring works.  Families who can afford it choose it as their first line of defense.  Lower income families whose children need the services SES tutoring provides should have the same access as families with means. TOC stands ready to work with the State of Texas to impose rigorous standards on SES programs.  Eliminating a program so vital to our most vulnerable children is not an option.

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