TN 66 (12-18)

PR 07905.001 Alabama

A. PR 18-120 Eligibility for Child's Insurance Benefits as Full-Time Elementary or Secondary School Student Based on attendance through Alabama Connections Academy - Alabama

1. Syllabus

Alabama Connections Academy, a public school, is considered an educational institution under Alabama law.

2. Question

You asked whether Alabama Connections Academy (ACA), an entity located in Alabama, is an educational institution under Alabama law for determining whether S~ (Claimant), an Alabama resident, is eligible for child’s insurance benefits (CIB) on the earnings record of V~ the number holder (NH). You also asked whether Claimant met the full-time attendance requirements.

3. Opinion

ACA is an educational institution under Alabama law and Claimant meets the requirements for full-time attendance.

4. Background

According to the information provided, Claimant seeks CIB on NH’s earnings record beyond the age of eighteen as a full-time student. Claimant completed a Student Statement Regarding School Attendance Form, in which she indicated she lives in Alabama. Claimant reported that she attended ACA thirty hours per week last school year and is scheduled to attend thirty hours per week in the upcoming school year. Claimant also reported that ACA is a high school, she has attended ACA since November 2017, and she expects to graduate in May 2019.

Claimant reported she was not disabled or married and that she did not expect to earn more than an unspecified amount in 2018. While Claimant did not indicate whether she was being paid to attend school, in her application, she acknowledged her duty to notify the agency if she was paid by an employer to attend school. There is no information provided to suggest that Claimant is being paid to attend school.

ACA’s administrative assistant, J~, completed and signed the Certification by School Official form and confirmed that the information Claimant provided on her statement was correct. J~ also indicated that ACA had a course of study of at least thirteen weeks and the school operated on a yearly basis. J~ confirmed in a letter to Claimant’s mother that Claimant completed thirty hours per week of school work last school year and is expected to maintain that same standard in the coming school year.

ACA’s website describes itself as a free online public virtual school serving students in grades K-12 and it is based in Alabama. See K-12 Alabama Virtual School | Alabama Connections Academy, (last visited Aug. 2018). https://www.connectionsacademy.com/alabama-virtual-school. ACA’s website states that it is authorized by the Limestone County School District and is a division of Connections Education, which is accredited by AdvancED. See id. The website further provides that ACA adheres to all state testing requirements and encourages students to take appropriate college entry and preparatory exams needed for reaching their personal academic goals. See Alabama Connections Acadamy, 2017-18 School profile, https://www.connectionsacademy.com/Portals/58/ca-schools/alca/pdfs/1718_ALCA_SchoolProfile.pdf (last visited Aug. 2018).

ACA’s website states that to graduate, students must earn a minimum of 24 credits and participate in state tests. See Graduation Requirements | Alabama Connections Academy, https://www.connectionsacademy.com/alabama-virtual-school/curriculum/high-school/graduation-requirements (last visited Aug. 2018). According to ACA’s website, parents are responsible for helping to monitor attendance and ensure the student attends required state examinations. See Parent Responsibilities | Alabama Connections Academy, https://www.connectionsacademy.com/alabama-virtual-school/about/parents/responsibilities (last visited Aug. XX, 2018).

ACA is not listed by the Alabama Department of Education as a public school in Limestone County, where ACA’s website claims it is based. See Ala. State Dep’t of Educ., School Information: Education Directory, https://web.alsde.edu/home/SchoolInfo/Default.aspx (last visited August 2018). However, ACA is listed on the Limestone County School District website as a tuition-free, virtual public school for students in K-12, authorized by Limestone County School District. See LCS Virtual School/Alabama Connections Academy | Virtual School/Alabama Connections Academy | Limestone County School District, http://www.lcsk12.org/?DivisionID=21635 (last visited Aug. XX, 2018).

5. Discussion

To be eligible for CIB on the earnings record of an individual who dies fully or currently insured, an individual who is eighteen years or older and not disabled must be a “full-time elementary or secondary school student.” Social Security Act (Act) § 202(d)(1)(B)(i), (d)(7)(A); see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.350(a)(5), 404.367 (2018);[1]

Program Operations Manual System (POMS) RS 00205.001.A. An individual may qualify as an “elementary or secondary school student” if he or she attends an educational institution, i.e., a school that provides elementary or secondary education (twelfth grade or below) according to the law of the state or jurisdiction where the school is located. See Act § 202(d)(7)(A), (d)(7)(C); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a), (e); POMS RS 00205.001.A; POMS RS 00205.200.A. An individual also may qualify as an elementary or secondary school student if he or she receives instruction in elementary or secondary education at home under the home school law of the state or other jurisdictional where the individual resides. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a)(1); POMS RS 00205.275.A. The law of the state in which the home school is located must recognize home school as an educational institution. See POMS RS 00205.275.B. The individual’s home school instructor must submit evidence that the state requirements for home schooling are met. See POMS RS 00205.275.C. Additionally, an individual may be considered an elementary or secondary school student if he or she is in an independent study program administered by the local school or school district in accordance with the law of the state or jurisdiction in which he or she resides. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a)(2); POMS RS 00205.285.

An individual also must attend school full time to qualify as a “full-time elementary or secondary school student.” See Act § 202(d)(7)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b), (c); POMS RS 00205.001.A; POMS RS 00205.300.A. An individual is in full-time attendance if he or she is attending an educational institution and meets both state and Federal standards for full-time attendance. See Act § 202(d)(7)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a), (c); POMS RS 00205.295.B.; POMS RS 00205.300A. An individual meets the state standards if a qualifying educational institution considers the individual to be a full-time student based on the institution’s standards and practices. See Act § 202(d)(7)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b); POMS RS 00205.300B; POMS RS 00205.350C.1. An individual meets the Federal standards if he or she is scheduled to attend school at the rate of at least twenty hours per week, enrolled in a noncorrespondence course, and enrolled in a course of study lasting at least thirteen weeks. See Act § 202(d)(7)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b), (c); POMS RS 00205.300.C. A home schooled individual must meet the Federal standards for full-time attendance and carry a subject load that is considered full-time for day students under standards and practices set by the state in which the individual resides. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b); POMS RS 00205.275.B. The home schooling instructor is the certifying school official for full-time attendance purposes on Form SSA-1372. See id.; see also POMS RS 00205.350.B (stating the agency uses Form SSA-1372 to verify attendance). Attendance for a student in an independent study program must also meet the Federal full-time attendance requirements, which individual accomplishes by combining the number of hours at a school facility with the agreed upon number of hours in independent study. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(c); POMS RS 00205.285.B.

6. Educational Institution under Alabama Law

Because ACA is located in Alabama, we look to Alabama law to determine whether ACA is a school that provides elementary or secondary education. Under Alabama law, every child between the ages of six and seventeen years is required to attend a public school, private school, or church school, or receive instruction from a competent private tutor. See Ala. Code § 16-28-3(a) (2018).[2]

A parent or guardian in Alabama may decide the type of school or method of education for his or her child, including public schooling, private schooling, or home-based education. See Ala. Code §§ 16-1-11.1(1), 16-1-11.2(a). Beginning in the 2016-2017 school year, Alabama required each local board of education to adopt a policy providing, at a minimum, a virtual education option for eligible students in grade nine through twelve and required virtual schools in the state providing educational services to public school students to comply with certain statutory provisions. See Ala. Code § 16-46A-1. Alabama law further provides that a full-time student enrolled in a virtual program shall be enrolled and counted in the average daily membership of the local school, participate in state testing and accountability requirements through the local school system, and, upon satisfying the graduation requirements of the local board of education, receive a diploma from the local school system. See Ala. Code § 16-46A-2(a). The state also exempted local boards of education from requirements such as physical presence, student monitoring, time requirements, and staffing requirements, to the extent they would conflict with the delivery of a virtual school program. See id § 16-46A-2(c).

ACA is not listed by the Alabama Department of Education as a public school in Limestone County, where its website claims it is based. See Ala. State Dep’t of Educ., School Information: Education Directory, https://web.alsde.edu/home/SchoolInfo/Default.aspx (last visited August XX, 2018). However, ACA is listed on the Limestone County School District website as a tuition-free, virtual public school for students in K-12, authorized by Limestone County School District. See LCS Virtual School/Alabama Connections Academy | Virtual School/Alabama Connections Academy | Limestone County School District, http://www.lcsk12.org/?DivisionID=21635 (last visited Aug. XX, 2018). Therefore, it appears that ACA qualifies as a public school under Alabama law as it is a virtual school authorized by a local board of education pursuant to state law. Because it is a public school, ACA qualifies as an educational institution under Alabama law.

7. Full-Time Attendance

The evidence shows that Claimant’s study through ACA satisfied the requirements for full-time attendance. Claimant met the state standards for full-time attendance because Ms. J~ confirmed that Claimant completed thirty hours per week of school work last school year and is expected to maintain that same standard in the coming school year. See Act § 202(d)(7)(A); 20 C.F.R. 404.367(b); POMS RS 00205.300.B; POMS RS 00205.350.C.1; Ala. Code § 16-46A-2(a), (c). Claimant met the Federal standards for full-time attendance because she stated, and Ms. J~ confirmed, that she was scheduled to attend ACA for more than twenty hours per week, Ms. J~ confirmed that the school’s course of study was at least thirteen weeks in duration, and nothing in the information available indicates that Claimant is enrolled in a correspondence course. See Act § 202(d)(7)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b), (c); POMS RS 00205.300.C. Therefore, the information provided indicates Claimant meets the state and Federal full-time attendance requirements.

 

B. PR 18-115 Is Zoe Home School an Educational Institution in Alabama and is Claimant Eligible for CIB

July 23, 2018

1. SYLLABUS

Zoe Home School is not an educational institution under Alabama law. It does not meet the State requirements for a public, private or church school.

2. OPINION

QUESTION

You asked whether Zoe Home School, an entity located in Alabama, is an educational institution under Alabama law for determining whether S~ (Claimant), an Alabama resident, is eligible for child’s insurance benefits (CIB) on the earnings record of D~, the deceased number holder (NH). You also asked whether Claimant was in full-time attendance.

QUICK ANSWER

Zoe Home School is not an educational institution under Alabama law and Claimant is not instructed in elementary or secondary education at home in accordance with Alabama law. Claimant also does not meet the standards for full-time attendance.

BACKGROUND

According to the information provided, Claimant received CIB on NH’s earnings record. Claimant seeks CIB beyond the age of eighteen as a full-time student. Claimant completed a Student Statement Regarding School Attendance Form, Form SSA-1372-BK, in which she indicated she lives in T~, Alabama, and attends Zoe Home School twenty hours per week. Claimant reported that she has attended Zoe Home School since September 2017 and expects to graduate in May 2019. Claimant indicated Zoe Home School is a home school. She reported she was not married; did not expect to earn more than $17,041.00 in 2018; and was not being paid to attend school.

Zoe Home School’s administrator, P~, completed and signed the Certification by School Official page of Form SSA-1372-BK and confirmed that the information Claimant provided was correct. P~ also indicated that Zoe Home School had a course of study of at least thirteen weeks and the school operated on a quarterly/semester basis and no re-enrollment was required.

Claimant submitted her completed Church School Enrollment Form, which included Claimant’s contact information and indicated she was in 11th grade for the 2017-2018 school year. She included a course list. She also submitted an attendance form, showing general attendance for October, November, and December 2017.

Zoe Home School’s website describes itself as a “home school umbrella organization” based in T~ County, Alabama, and states that it accepts “families outside of our home congregation at Soma Church.” Zoe Home School, http://www.zoehomeschool.org/ (last visited July 16, 2018). The website further describes Zoe Home school as providing “administration assistance and a church sponsored covering for parents to legally and legitimately homeschool their children.” Id.

Claimant did not provide any information showing that either she or her mother has filed an enrollment or attendance form with the local public school superintendent. There is no information on Zoe Home School’s website related to the school filing enrollment and attendance information with the local public school superintendent or any indication that the school keeps an attendance register for each day of the school year.

DISCUSSION

To be eligible for CIB on the earnings record of an individual who dies fully or currently insured, an individual who is eighteen years or older and not disabled must be a “full-time elementary or secondary school student.” Social Security Act (Act) § 202(d)(1)(B)(i), (d)(7)(A); see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.350(a)(5), 404.367 (2018);[3] Program Operations Manual System (POMS) RS 00205.001.A. An individual may qualify as an “elementary or secondary school student” if he or she attends an educational institution, i.e., a school that provides elementary or secondary education (twelfth grade or below) according to the law of the state or jurisdiction where the school is located. See Act § 202(d)(7)(A), (d)(7)(C); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a), (e); POMS RS 00205.001A; POMS RS 00205.200A. An individual also may qualify as an elementary or secondary school student if he or she receives instruction in elementary or secondary education at home under the home school law of the state or other jurisdictional where the individual resides. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a)(1); POMS RS 00205.275A. The law of the state in which the home school is located must recognize home school as an educational institution. See POMS RS 00205.275.B. The individual’s home school instructor must submit evidence that the state requirements for home schooling are met. See POMS RS 00205.275.C. Additionally, an individual may be considered an elementary or secondary school student if he or she is in an independent study program administered by the local school or school district in accordance with the law of the state or jurisdiction in which he or she resides. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a)(2); POMS RS 00205.285.

An individual also must attend school full time to qualify as a “full-time elementary or secondary school student.” See Act § 202(d)(7)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b), (c); POMS RS 00205.001A; POMS RS 00205.300A. An individual is in full-time attendance if he or she is attending an educational institution and meets both state and Federal standards for full-time attendance. See Act § 202(d)(7)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a), (c); POMS RS 00205.295B.; POMS RS 00205.300A. An individual meets the state standards if a qualifying educational institution considers the individual to be a full-time student based on the institution’s standards and practices. See Act § 202(d)(7)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b); POMS RS 00205.300B; POMS RS 00205.350C.1. An individual meets the Federal standards if he or she is scheduled to attend school at the rate of at least twenty hours per week, enrolled in a noncorrespondence course, and enrolled in a course of study lasting at least thirteen weeks. See Act § 202(d)(7)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b), (c); POMS RS 00205.300C. A home schooled individual must meet the Federal standards for full-time attendance and carry a subject load that is considered full-time for day students under standards and practices set by the state in which the individual resides. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b); POMS RS 00205.275B. The home schooling instructor is the certifying school official for full-time attendance purposes on Form SSA-1372. See id.: see also POMS RS 00205.350B (stating the agency uses Form SSA-1372 to verify attendance). Attendance for a student in an independent study program must also meet the Federal full-time attendance requirements, which individual accomplishes by combining the number of hours at a school facility with the agreed upon number of hours in independent study. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(c); POMS RS 00205.285B.

Educational Institution under Alabama Law

Because Zoe Home School is located in Alabama, we look to Alabama law to determine whether Zoe Home School is a school that provides elementary or secondary education. Under Alabama law, every child between the ages of six and seventeen years is required to attend a public school, private school, or church school, or receive instruction from a competent private tutor. Ala. Code § 16-28-3(a) (2018).[4] A parent or guardian in Alabama may decide the type of school or method of education for his or her child, including public schooling, private schooling, or home-based education. See Ala. Code §§ 16-1-11.1(1), 16-1-11.2(a). Nonpublic schools, as well as home-schooling entities, are not subject to state regulation, but they must comply with state law enrollment reporting and the requirements for school attendance. See Ala. Code §§ 16-1-11.1(2), (3), 16-1-11.2(b), 16-1-11.3.

Zoe Home School is not listed by the Alabama Department of Education as a public school in Tuscaloosa County, where Zoe Home School is based. See Ala. State Dep’t of Educ., School Information: Education Directory, https://web.alsde.edu/home/SchoolInfo/Default.aspx (last visited July 2018); Zoe Home School, http://www.zoehomeschool.org/. Thus, Zoe Home School is not a public school under Alabama law.

A “private school” under Alabama law “[i]ncludes only such schools that are established, conducted, and supported by a nongovernmental entity or agency offering educational instruction in grades K-12, or any combination thereof, including preschool, through on-site or home programs.” Ala. Code § 16-28-1(1). A “church school” under Alabama law “[i]ncludes only schools that offer instruction in grades K-12, or any combination thereof, including preschool, through on-site or home programs, and are operated as a ministry of a local church, group of churches, denomination, and/or association of churches which do not receive any state or federal funding.” Zoe Home School’s website suggests that it is a ministry of Soma Church, but does not specify whether it receives any state or federal funding. The website indicates that it is not accredited and the information available suggests that Zoe Home School does not accept state or federal funding. Zoe Home School also does not use a particular curriculum, but appears to be just an umbrella organization for parents to home school. See http://www.zoehomeschool.org/index.html. Thus, Zoe Home School does not appear to “offer instruction,” as required to be considered a “church school” under Alabama law. Thus, Zoe Home School is not a private school or church school.

Home Schooling under Alabama Law

Because Zoe Home School does not meet the requirements to be an educational institution under Alabama law, we look to see if Claimant is instructed in elementary or secondary education at home in accordance with a home school law of Alabama, where Claimant resides. See Act § 202(d)(7)(C)(i); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a)(1); POMS RS 00205.275A, B. As noted previously, an Alabama parent may choose to educate their child at home. See Ala. Code §§ 16-1-11.1(1), (2), 16-1-11.2(a). Homeschoolers can teach their children at home under one of three conditions: (1) by affiliating with a church school; (2) by affiliating with a private school, or (3) as a private tutor, in which case the tutor must have a valid Alabama teaching certificate. See Ala. Code §§ 16-28-1, 16-28-3(a), 16-28-5.

Option 1: Affiliating with a Church School.

A child attending a church school is exempt from the requirements of compulsory attendance provided the child complies with the enrollment and reporting procedure in section Ala. Code § 16-28-7. See Ala. Code §§ 16-1-11.1(3), 16-1-11.3, 16-28-3. “The enrollment and attendance of a child in a church school must be filed with the local public school superintendent by the parent . . . on a form provided by the superintendent . . . which shall be countersigned by the administrator of the church school and returned to the public school superintendent by the parent.” Ala. Code § 16-28-7. Additionally, the principal teacher of the church school must keep an attendance register for each day of the school year. See Ala. Code § 16-28-8. There is no statutory authority authorizing or requiring any state or local authority to regulate church schools, which may conduct classes as they see fit. See Ala. Code § 16-1-11.1. There is no requirement that church school teachers be certified or that a church school be accredited by the state or any private agency. See Ala. Code § 16-1-11.1(4). Other than the State laws requiring parents to report attendance and for church schools to report if a student is no longer in attendance at such a church school, there is no provision of Alabama law that permits or requires any state or local authority to regulate a church school. See Ala. Code §§ 16-1-11.1(3), 16-1-11.3.

Here, Zoe Home School appears to be affiliated with Soma Church, but the exact affiliation is unclear from the school’s website. Although Plaintiff completed a “Church School Enrollment Form,” there is no evidence that Claimant’s parent has registered with the local school board, or that any certified attendance records are kept and provided to the local school board, as required by statute. See Ala. Code § 16-28-7. Therefore, the information provided does not establish that Claimant is home schooled through a church school in accordance with Alabama law.

Option 2: Affiliating with a Private School.

Private schools must register annually by October 10 with the Alabama Department of Education and report the number of pupils, the number of instructors, enrollment, attendance, course of study, length of term, cost of tuition, funds, value of property, and the general condition of the school. See Ala. Code § 16-1-11.

Zoe Home School is not affiliated with any private school, and there is no evidence that Claimant is included in the mandatory enrollment or attendance reporting statements of any private school. See Ala. Code §§ 16-1-11, 16-28-7, 16-28-8. There is also no indication that Zoe Home School is registered with the State of Alabama as a private school, or that it provides any enrollment or attendance reports to county or city school superintendents in Alabama. See Ala. Code §§ 16-1-11, 16-28-7, 16-28-8; see Zoe Home School, http://www.zoehomeschool.org/About-Us.html. Therefore, the information provided does not establish that Claimant is home schooled through an affiliation with a private school in accordance with Alabama law.

Option 3: Private Tutor.

A child also may be home schooled if instructed by a competent private tutor. See Ala. Code § 16-28-5. The tutor must be a State certified teacher, teach “for at least three hours a day for 140 days each calendar year, between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.,” file with the county superintendent a statement describing subjects taught and period of instruction, keep a register of the child’s work showing daily hours of instruction and attendance, and shall make such reports as the State Board of Education may require. Id.; see also Ala. Code § 16-28-7 (stating “the principal teacher of each public school, private school, and each private tutor, but not church school, shall report . . . the names and addresses of all children of mandatory school attendance age who have enrolled in such schools”). To obtain a high school diploma, a child must have credits in such courses as English, algebra, and geometry or their equivalents, biology and a physical science, social studies, health education, career preparedness, and career and technical education, foreign language, or arts education. See Ala. Admin. Code § 290-3-1-.02(8). Contents of courses not defined in the State course of study must be approved by the local board of education. Id.

Claimant has provided no information to support or suggest that she is being instructed by a private tutor that meets the statutory requirements. Therefore, the information provided does not establish that Claimant is home schooled through instruction with a private tutor in accordance with Alabama law.

Independent Study

Claimant’s instruction through Zoe Home School also does not qualify as an independent study program. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a)(2). Independent study is a method of alternative secondary education used in some states. POMS RS 00205.285A. Local education agencies, such as high schools or school districts, run independent study programs. Id. Independent study programs are run “in accordance with specific State law requirements, and the credits earned count toward high school graduation.” Id. The programs involve periodic teacher contact, direction, and testing on campus, with the student making academic progress generally through independent study at home. Id. Nothing in the information provided suggests any local school or school district runs Zoe Home School. Thus, Claimant’s instruction through Zoe Home School does satisfy the independent study requirements.

Full-Time Attendance

Finally, because Zoe Home School is not an educational institution under Alabama law, Claimant is not being instructed at home in accordance with Alabama law, and she is not in an independent study program under Alabama law, Claimant does not satisfy the requirements for full-time attendance. See Act § 202(d)(7)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a)-(c); POMS RS 00205.295.B; POMS RS 00205.300.A.

CONCLUSION

Claimant has not demonstrated the Zoe Home School is an educational institution under Alabama law. Additionally, Claimant has not been demonstrated that she is participating in a home school study program in compliance with Alabama law or that she is in an independent study program in accordance with Alabama law. Thus, she is not a full-time elementary or secondary school student based on her instruction through Zoe Home School and does not satisfy the requirements for full-time attendance for determining her eligibility to CIB on the NH’s earnings record.


Footnotes:

[1]

 

All references to the Code of Federal Regulations are to the 2018 edition.

[2]

All references to the Alabama Code are to the 2018 edition.

 

[3]

. All references to the Code of Federal Regulations are to the 2018 edition.

[4]

. All references to the Alabama Code are to the 2018 edition.


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/1507905001
PR 07905.001 - Alabama - 08/01/2018
Batch run: 12/31/2018
Rev:08/01/2018