Private Lessons: A Tale of Two Students

Some Long Island families can afford expensive private tutors for their children to help them excel in school, but others can't.

Parents of children like Arusha Kumria pay up to $10,000 a year for high-tech lessons. Such students receive one-on-one instruction at home as they learn through an interactive video chat with instructors.

"We go ahead of the teacher most of the time," Arusha explains. "So when I go back to school, I know what I'm doing, and I'm usually ahead of it."

Arusha's parents pay for the "iTutor" program, run by Harry Aurora.

"We can bring premium tutors from across the nation," Aurora says. "That premium talent is what the parents are craving."

In underprivileged areas, however, tutoring is completely different. At Hempstead's Hispanic Counseling Center, government funding has dried up, and the tutors are volunteers. There's also a long waiting list for children in need of help.

"If I had to pay, I wouldn't be able to come here," says Jasmine Flores, a student at the center. "Because my mom struggles. She works a lot, and I don't think she would be able to pay for tutoring."

As News 12 has previously reported in the Private Lessons series, tutoring is a very large, unregulated business on Long Island. But experts say it also reflects the stark racial and economic differences in the local education system.

"Being rich or poor has a tremendous impact on access to tutoring services," says Hofstra University sociologist William Mangino. "An already advantaged community can buy even more advantage by test preparation courses, tutoring, SAT preparation courses -- and all of this reinforces existing class differences." 

Tutor Barbara King says the learning gap between rich and poor students on Long Island has increased in recent years. She attributes this to the loss of funding for the federal No Child Left Behind program.

"The children who received these services were the students that were receiving free or reduced lunch," King says. "They are coming from lower-income families, and now they're not getting anything because they can't afford to."

Claudia Boyle, an official at the Hempstead Hispanic Center, says the system shouldn't equate money to success in school, but it does.

But Jasmine Flores, one of the few underprivileged students still able to get low-income tutoring, says she's determined to make the most of it.

"I want to be a success, do really important things with my life," Jasmine says. "Without this place, I would be...nothing."

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