As uncertainty grows over whether schools should reopen this fall amid spiking coronavirus cases, some parents across the country are reportedly shelling out money for private teachers to educate their children at home.
Some families are pooling their resources to split the costs of a private homeschool education, forming groups called “pandemic pods” on social media platforms – a solution that could further drive inequity in children’s quality of education between families who can afford it and those who cannot.
Katrina Mulligan, a 40-year-old mother in Alexandria, Va., told USA Today safety concerns over her school’s reopening plan and her family’s poor experience with its virtual learning program prompted them to create a homeschooling pod with four other families.
Mulligan said the cost to hire a teacher to educate the pod’s first-graders could cost $2,500 per month or $500 per family.
“There will be a lot of parents who can't financially make this work, or can't secure a teacher,” she told the outlet, adding her group was interested in including a couple of families who otherwise could not afford the costs.
Phil Higgins, a psychotherapist in Salem, Mass., told the Washington Post that he and two other families are considering hiring a behavioral specialist as a teacher for 40 hours per week for about $1,300 per child.
However, many families agreed that the cost of private teaching could leave children of low-income families behind.
“We can pay,” Katie Franklin of Virginia told the Post. “We know others can’t, and there will be a gap, and that’s unfortunate.”
Kristina Boshernitzan, a mother who has been trying to set up a learning pod group in Austin, Texas, told the Texas Tribune that the cost leaves parents in a predicament.
“There’s ugly sides to parenting, and I think the idea that I’m going to protect my kids first is really beautiful and really ugly,” Boshernitzan said. “How do you balance your desire to give to your kids without taking away from others?”
Meanwhile, President Trump’s administration is continuing to push for schools to reopen with in-person learning come this fall.
Trump and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy Devos have threatened to withhold federal funding from K-12 schools that don't allow all their students to return to physical classrooms.
Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Raleigh on Wednesday to encourage more K-12 schools to reopen with entirely in-person instruction.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.