1) Does the Roots Home School Program meet the criteria for an Educational Institution
(EI)? 2) Is the enrolled child, Spencer, eligible to receive student's benefits?
For the reasons that follow, we conclude that the Roots Home School Program qualifies
as an EI; Spencer, however, is ineligible to receive student benefits for the 2006-2007
Spencer was born on May. He was home taught in Alberta, Canada for the 2006-2007 school
year under the Roots School Homeschooling Program of the Trinity Church. The letter
from the Roots School Homeschooling coordinator indicates that the Roots School is
recognized under the Alberta Home Education Regulations and Policy. Section 1 of Alberta's
School Act includes home education in its definition of schooling. http://www.qp.gov.ab.ca/documents/Regs/2006_145.cfm?frm_isbn=0779748387
The Alberta Department of Education recognizes parents' right to home school their
children, provided the parents notify the local school board or accredited private
school of the intent to home school. The school authority that accepts the parents'
notification is called the associate school authority and has the responsibility to
provide the parents with support. In this instance, the Trinity Christian School accepted
Spencer's parents' notification. With the parents, the associate school authority
must ensure that the child meets the parents' educational goals. http://education.alberta.ca/parents/choice/homeeducation.aspx
The Social Security Act provides that every child of an individual entitled to old-age
or disability insurance benefits, or of an individual who dies a fully or currently
insured individual, shall be entitled to a child's insurance benefit if the child
is unmarried and either has not attained the age of 18 or is a full-time elementary
or secondary school student and had not attained the age of 19. 42 U.S.C. §402(d)(1)(B)(i).
An elementary or secondary school is a school that provides elementary or secondary
education, respectively, as determined under the laws of the State or other jurisdiction
in which it is located. 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(7)(C)(i). Any education provided, or to
be provided, beyond grade 12 is to be disregarded from the consideration of a “full-time
elementary or secondary school student” or “full-time attendance at an elementary
or secondary school”. 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(7)(C)(ii).
The regulations explain that a child is a full-time elementary or secondary school
student if he meets the following conditions: 1) attendance in a school that provides
elementary or secondary education as determined under the law of the State or other
jurisdiction in which it is located (this includes elementary or secondary education
at home in accordance with a home school law of the State or other jurisdiction in
which the child resides), 2) full-time attendance in a day or evening non-correspondence
course of at least 13 weeks duration and carrying a subject load which is considered
full-time for day students under the institution's standards and practices (a home
schooling program must carry a subject load which is considered full-time for day
students under standards and practices set by the State or other jurisdiction in which
the child resides), and 3) in attendance at the rate of at least 20 hours per week.
20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a).
The POMS provide additional guidance. An EI is a school that provides elementary or
secondary education (grade 12 or below) as determined under the law of the State or
other jurisdiction in which it is located. POMS Section RS 00205.200. A student in a home school program is eligible for student benefits if he meets
the full time attendance requirements, the laws of the State in which the home school
is located recognize the home school as an EI, the home school meets the requirements
of State law in which the home school is located, and the student meets all the other
requirements for benefits. POMS Section RS 00205.275. A foreign school can qualify as an EI, provided it is part of the elementary or
secondary school system in that country or a facility approved or authorized by the
educational authorities in that country to provide elementary or secondary education.
POMS Section RS 00205.700. Some foreign secondary schools provide education beyond grade 12 (or year 12). In
these cases, a student cannot be eligible for student benefits as attendance beyond
grade 12 is not full-time attendance for SSA purposes. POMS Section RS 00205.730.
Spencer's home school program, therefore, is duly recognized by the jurisdiction of
Alberta, Canada and, thus, satisfies the criteria for an EI. Your memo raised concerns
about the lack of a definitive curriculum outline and that the parents are given the
framework and decide what is taught and the materials that are to be used. The Alberta
Home Education Handbook specifies that it is the responsibility of the parents to
decide which courses from the Alberta Programs of Study will be followed, if any.
The associate school authority then reviews the program plan and provides the parent
with a written acceptance or rejection of the proposed home education program. The
curriculum does, therefore, seem to be definitive in that it is agreed upon by parents
and the associate school based on the generalized curriculum for all Alberta students.
The deciding factor, with respect to Spencer, is the full time attendance requirements
up to grade 12. The submitted material shows that the school year for September 3,
2005 to June 30, 2006, comprised grade 12 and that the school year from September
6, 2006 to June 30, 2007, constituted grades 12 and 13. The Act disregards any education
beyond grade 12. 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(7)(C)(ii); POMS Section RS
00205.730. Because Spencer's home school attendance from September 2006 to June 2007 extended
beyond grade 12, he is ineligible to receive student benefits for that year.
The Roots Home School Program does meet the criteria for an EI based on the laws of
the “other jurisdiction” in which Spencer resides. Since his academic level for the
2006-2007 school year went beyond grade 12, Spencer is ineligible to receive student
benefits for that period.