K-12 students have been educated online since March, and parents fear they are falling behind.
With most schools across the US closed since March to slow the spread of the coronavirus, some ultrawealthy parents are hiring private educators to make sure their kids don’t fall behind.
Some of these educators are former teachers or people who have degrees in education, and they charge between $25 and $60 an hour for their services.
Some parents may continue to employ these professionals to homeschool their kids even after schools reopen in the fall in case the US experiences a second wave of the coronavirus, as some experts expect.
Educators are concerned that lower-income families’ lack of internet access will further widen the achievement gap between rich and poor students when schools eventually reopen.
Wealthy families have hired private educators to smooth over interruptions in their children’s education for years.
Katie Provinziano, the managing director of Beverly Hills-based staffing agency Westside Nannies, told Business Insider that before the pandemic, the decision to hire private was relatively rare and often tied to extended travel.
“Initially, we worked with families that were going on world tours or families that were filming on location and wanted to have their children with them, or families that have the means and wanted to take a year off and travel the world,” Provinziano said.
However, as the coronavirus pandemic has swept across the world, education is one of the many parts of daily life that has faced abrupt changes. And while travel has ground to a halt, the demand for private educators has not.
Instead, per Provinziano, demand for professional homeschooling is skyrocketing as parents grow increasingly concerned about the quality of education their students are getting virtually. About two-thirds of parents with K-12 aged children are worried that coronavirus school closures will cause their kids to fall behind academically, a survey from the Pew Research Center found.
Schools in 48 states and the District of Columbia have been closed since March, according to data from Education Week. While the Pew Research Center surveys show that the majority of parents are at least somewhat satisfied with their school’s distance learning, many are worried that it’s not enough.
That’s where private educators come into the picture.
“I think what this pandemic has brought on is that there may be other reasons to [hire private educators], like safety for the family and a better educational opportunity given all the limitations and rules that the schools are going to have to have to keep students safe,” Provinziano said.
Simulating a school day at home
Unlike traditional private tutors, the educators, who are often former teachers or recent graduates with education degrees, are typically paid between $25 and $60 per hour to instruct all of the family’s children together for four to five hours each day, according to Provinziano — simulating a typical school day. The private educators also receive a paid planning period to write lesson plans and grade papers, like teachers do in conventional schools.
Provinziano said that Westside received so many inquiries for private educators in recent weeks that it is writing a guidebook to answer clients’ most common questions about homeschooling and the process of hiring a private educator. Many of the families who decide to hire a private educator start the process by selecting an educational philosophy such as Montessori and then use a staffing agency like Westside to find candidates, according to Provinziano.
Forrest Barnett, Vice President of Manhattan, the Hamptons, and Palm Beach staffing agency Hire Society told Business Insider that their clients have also started inquiring about private educators and tutors, especially those with backgrounds in mathematics and foreign language. However, Hire Society is only hiring educators to work with children remotely.
Access to private tutoring is just one of many advantages wealthy students have over their lower-income peers while schools are closed. More than half of upper-income parents told Pew Research Center that their children received “a lot” of online instruction after schools started closing in March, while only 38% of lower-income parents could say the same. Educators across the country are worried that a lack of internet access, schools with limited digital learning tools, and the unavailability of healthy meals at home will widen the achievement gap between America’s richest and poorest students, Reuters’ Joseph Ax reported.
School isn’t the only thing wealthy families are recreating at home
For the wealthiest families, an educator may be only one of several people employed specifically to keep school-aged kids engaged while at home under coronavirus lockdown.
Some of Provinziano’s clients are also hiring coaches and former camp counselors to create the experience of summer camp even while social distancing. Barnett told Business Insider that Hire Society launched a new program designed to help families build camp-like schedules to keep their kids busy as stay-at-home orders stretch into the summer in New York and California.
Some public health experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, have warned that the pandemic might not end this summer. In a Senate hearing earlier this month, Fauci said there is “virtually no chance” the coronavirus will be eradicated this summer and that reopening the country prematurely could lead to a second, even more deadly outbreak of the coronavirus in the fall, Business Insider’s Aylin Woodward and Ruobing Su reported.
Fearing this, some of Provinziano’s clients are even considering keeping their expanded staffs on to continue homeschooling their children regardless of whether schools reopen later this year, in an effort to keep their families shielded from the virus.
“Homeschooling is an unknown for a lot of families, and it can also come with a stigma — like what about socialization?” Provinziano said. “But I think if you have the means to make it amazing, then you can truly make it meaningful. So many of the people we work with have the means to do that and hire really wonderful, passionate educators.”