TN 51 (05-17)

PR 07905.025 Michigan

A. PR 17-067 Michigan Virtual Charter Academy Opinion

Date: March 17, 2017

1. Syllabus

Michigan Virtual Charter Academy is a valid online public high school under Michigan state law, therefore it is considered an educational institution.

2. Opinion

QUESTION

You asked whether Michigan Virtual Charter Academy (MVCA) in Grand Rapids, Michigan qualifies an educational institution for the purpose of awarding Student Benefits. For the reasons discussed below, we conclude that MVCA is an educational institution.

BACKGROUND

The Social Security Act provides for the payment of Child Insurance Benefits to certain children of individuals who are entitled to old-age or disability benefits. 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(1). A child can obtain Student Benefits if he is between 18 and 19 years old and is enrolled as a full-time student at a qualifying educational institution. See POMS RS 00205.001. M~ seeks Student Benefits due to his reported status as a full-time student at MVCA, an online public school with a physical address in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

MVCA’s website confirms that it is an online charter school authorized by Grand Valley State University that provides tuition-free public education for grades K-12. See Michigan Virtual Charter Academy, http://mvca.k12.com/ (last visited March 8, 2017). M~ submitted an SSA-1372-BK form stating that he is currently enrolled in full-time attendance at MVCA, which he has been attending since September XX, 2016. M~ is scheduled to attend 35 hours per week and his expected graduation date is June 2017. H~, Office Administrator at MVCA, certified M~’s SSA-1372-BK form. H~ stated that the information provided by M~ was correct, and that the school’s course of study was at least 13 weeks in duration.

DISCUSSION

To qualify as an educational institution for the purpose of awarding Student Benefits, an institution must provide a secondary education “as determined under the law of the State or other jurisdiction in which it is located.” 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(7)(C)(i); see also POMS RS 00205.200(A). An online school that offers Internet-based courses to students is governed by the same analysis; it must be “consistent with the law of the state in which it is located.” POMS RS 00205.295. Public high schools are assumed to be qualifying educational institutions unless there is evidence to the contrary. POMS RS 00205.250(B)(1).

Michigan law allows for the creation of a cyber school that is a “school of excellence.”[1] Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 380.553a(1). The governing board of a state public university may act as an authorizing body to issue a contract to organize a “school of excellence” that is a cyber school. Mich. Comp. Laws § 380.552(6)(d). The Center for Educational Performance and Information, a state organization, lists MVCA as a cyber school that is “school of excellence” and states that MVCA was chartered by the Grand Valley State University. CEPI Entity Report, Michigan Virtual Charter Academy, http://www.cepi.state.mi.us/eem/EntitySearchQuick.aspx (last visited March 8, 2017) (in “Entity Name Contains” field, search “Michigan Virtual Charter Academy”). Thus, MVCA constitutes a valid cyber school of excellence under Michigan state law.

A “school of excellence,” including a cyber school, is a public school under the state constitution and is subject to supervision by the state board of education. Mich. Comp. Laws § 380.551(1). “[I]f the state school reform/redesign officer determines that a school of excellence site that has been operating for at least 4 years is in the lowest achieving 5% of all public schools in this state for the immediately preceding 3 school years . . . [he] shall notify the school of excellence’s authorizing body.”[2] Mich. Comp. Laws § 380.561(5) (effective June 21, 2016). If the authorizing body receives such notice, “the school of excellence shall cease operating the existing age and grade levels at the site, effective at the end of the current school year.” Id.

MVCA opened in September 2010. CEPI Entity Report, Michigan Virtual Charter Academy, http://www.cepi.state.mi.us/eem/EntitySearchQuick.aspx (last visited March 8, 2017) (in “Entity Name Contains” field, search “Michigan Virtual Charter Academy”). For the 2015-2016 school year, the most recent year available, MVCA ranked in the lowest achieving 10% of public schools in Michigan. 2015-2016 Top-to-Bottom School List, http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mde/2015-16_Accountability_Results_List_for_Print_549027_7.pdf. Data was not available for the 2014-2015 school year. See MLive, “Michigan Won’t Release Top-to-Bottom School Rankings for 2 Years,” http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2015/09/michigan_wont_release_top-to-b.html (last visited March 8, 2017). For the 2013-2014 school year, MVCA ranked in the lowest 3% of all public schools in Michigan. 2013-2014 Top-to-Bottom School List, http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mde/2013-14_TTB_Rankings_465183_7.pdf. Because MVCA did not fall within the lowest achieving 5% of all public schools in the state for the three preceding school years, the school is not subject to closure pursuant to Michigan law.

There is a presumption that MVCA, a public high school, is a qualifying educational institution. Because MVCA is presently a valid online public high school under Michigan state law, we conclude that MVCA is currently an educational institution.

CONCLUSION

MVCA, an online public high school based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, qualifies as an educational institution.

B. PR 17-046 Is Homeschool Connections, an online Madison Heights Community School in MI, an educational institution and are students eligible for student benefits

Date: February 13, 2017

1. Syllabus

Homeschool Connections, which offers traditional high school curriculum, and Oakland Schools Technical Campuses, which offers practical career courses, are part of the Madison District Public Schools and qualify as educational institutions.

2. Opinion

QUESTION

You asked whether Homeschool Connections, an online school connected to Madison Heights Community Schools in Michigan, is an educational institution, for the purpose of awarding student benefits. For the reasons discussed below, we conclude that it is.

BACKGROUND

B~ seeks student benefits based on her alleged status as a full-time online high-school student at Homeschool Connections and Oakland Technical Campus.

B~ submitted an SSA-1372-BK form stating that she is currently attending Homeschool Connections and Oakland Technical Campus full-time. She reported that she is scheduled to attend school 40 hours per week, and her anticipated graduation date is August 2017.[3] T~, an Educational Data Specialist at the Madison District Public Schools, certified B~’s SSA-1372-BK form.

Although an online search of “Homeschool Connections” leads to websites for various homeschooling programs, B~ evidently was referring to the Homeschool Connections that is part of a program called SOARCE (Students learning Online with Academic Resources and Community Enrichment). SOARCE, also known as Madison Virtual Academy, allows students to take online classes through the Madison District Public Schools. See About – SOARCE Program, http://soarce.madisondistrict.org/cms/One.aspx?portalId=490756&pageId=759107 (last visited Jan. 30, 2017). The SOARCE website lists T~, who certified B~’s form, in their Staff Directory. See Staff Directory, http://soarce.madisondistrict.org/cms/One.aspx?portalId=490756&pageId=490785 (last visited Jan. 30, 2017). Madison District Public Schools are located in Michigan’s Oakland County. See Madison District Public Schools – News, http://www.madisonschools.k12.mi.us/cms/One.aspx?portalId=489373&pageId=7369681 (last visited Jan. 31, 2017).

B~ also listed Oakland Technical Campus as a school she attends, and T~ verified by phone on September 12, 2016, that B~ takes cosmetology classes at Oakland Technical Trade School. Evidently, B~ and T~ were both slightly mistaken as to the school’s name; it is Oakland Schools Technical Campuses (“OSTC”). See OSTC – Home, http://www.ostconline.com/ (last visited Jan. 31, 2017). OSTC provides “practical career technical education to high school students from Oakland County’s 28 public school districts, public academies, private learning institutions and home schools. Enrolled students spend part of their day studying at their home district and the other part actively involved in one of several career clusters.” Id. One of the offered career clusters is cosmetology. See Notice of Career & Technical Education Offerings at the Oakland Schools Technical Campuses (OSTC), available at http://www.ostconline.com/LinkClick.aspx?link=Documents%2fNOTICE+CTE+Opportunities+Civil+Rights_English.pdf&tabid=2787&mid=8839 (last visited Jan. 31, 2017). T~ sent the SSA B~’s class schedule, showing three cosmetology classes and three high school classes, all taken under the auspices of “Madison Virtual Academy.” Thus, it is evident that B~ is taking her OSTC classes through Madison Virtual Academy, which is a part of the Madison District Public Schools.

DISCUSSION

The Social Security Act provides for the payment of Child Insurance Benefits to certain children of individuals who are entitled to old-age or disability benefits. 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(1). A child can obtain student benefits if she is between 18 and 19 years old and is enrolled as a full-time student at an educational institution. See POMS RS 00205.001.

To qualify as an educational institution, a school must provide a secondary education consistent with the law of the State in which it is located. 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(7)(C)(i); see also POMS RS 00205.200(A). Public high schools are presumed to be educational institutions unless there is evidence to the contrary. POMS RS 00205.250(B)(1). B~ attends Homeschool Connections and OSTC under the auspices of the Madison District Public Schools. Because Madison District Public Schools are by definition public schools, its high schools are presumed to be educational institutions. There is no evidence countering this presumption. In short, B~ attends an educational institution.

As an additional matter, we note that the “Certification by School Official” page on the SSA-1372-BK form instructs the school official to annotate the student’s expected graduation date on page 4 and to retain that page for reporting to the SSA if the student’s full-time status or graduation date changes. However, T~ noted that she did not receive pages 4 and 5 (question 4), and thus did not annotate B~’s expected graduation date on page 4 (question 5). Based on these deficiencies, you may wish to recontact the school official. See POMS RS 00205.350(B) (to verify student’s school attendance, school official must answer “yes” to questions 1, 2, 4, and 5, and complete question 3), RS 00205.735(B).

CONCLUSION

For the foregoing reasons, we conclude that Homeschool Connections and OSTC, which are part of the Madison District Public Schools, qualify as educational institutions. Accordingly, you may find that B~ meets this threshold requirement for eligibility for student benefits.

Kathryn Caldwell

Acting Regional Chief Counsel, Region V

By: Hersh Friedman

Assistant Regional Counsel

C. PR 17-014 Is Great Lakes Cyber Academy an Educational Institution

Date: November 2, 2016

1. Syllabus

The Great Lakes Cyber Academy is a tuition-free virtual public school option that offers online instruction from grades 6 to 12 and qualifies as an educational institution.

2. Opinion

QUESTION PRESENTED

You asked whether the Great Lakes Cyber Academy, based in Okemos, Michigan, may be considered an educational institution for the purpose of awarding child insurance benefits as a student.

For the reasons discussed below, we conclude that the Great Lakes Cyber Academy is an educational institution.

BACKGROUND

The claimant, B~, is seeking child’s insurance benefits (CIB) as a full-time student at Great Lakes Cyber Academy (GLCA) on the record of D~. The agency uses Form SSA-1372-BK as the primary means for determining whether a child is a full-time student at a qualifying educational institution. POMS RS 00205.735. The claimant submitted Form SSA-1372-BK in March 2016, indicating that she attended GLCA, an online high school, from September 2014 until July 2015 and from September 2015 until the date of the form (anticipating an end of the school year in July 2016). She estimated that she had 30 hours per week of school in the 2014-2015 school year, and between 23 and 30 hours for the 2015-2016 school year. She also expected that she would graduate in July 2017. N~, a school counselor, certified Form SSA-1372-BK. N~ confirmed that the claimant provided correct information regarding being a student at GLCA, and also confirmed that the school’s course of study was at least 13 weeks in duration.

DISCUSSION

To qualify for child insurance benefits as a student, a claimant must be at least 18 years old, but under age 19, and a full-time elementary or secondary school student at a qualifying educational institution. See 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(1)(B); 20 C.F.R. § 404.350(a)(5). If a student attains age 19 in a month while in full-time attendance and has not completed the requirements for, or has not received, a diploma or equivalent certificate from a secondary school, the student is deemed not to have attained age 19. POMS RS 00205.325(B).

In order to qualify as an educational institution, the school must provide an elementary or secondary education “as determined under the law of the State or other jurisdiction in which it is located.” 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(7)(C)(i); see also POMS RS 00205.200(A). Public schools in the United States are assumed to be educational institutions, absent evidence to the contrary. POMS RS 00205.250(B), (C). Because they are public schools, elementary, middle, junior high and high schools are assumed to be educational institutions. POMS RS 00205.250(C). In contrast, non-public schools are not assumed to be educational institutions. POMS RS 00205.250(B).

The Great Lakes Cyber Academy (GLCA) is based in Okemos, Michigan, and offers online instruction from grades 6 to 12 according to its website. See http://www.connectionsacademy.com/michigan-cyber-school. After Central Michigan University authorized it, the academy opened for the 2013-2014 school year. Great Lakes Cyber Academy Annual Report, at 2, http://www.connectionsacademy.com/Portals/29/ca-schools/glca/documents/pdfs/GLCA_Annual_Education_Report_SY1516_ACCESSIBLE_FINAL.pdf. It is thus necessary to examine the school’s status under Michigan law, Social Security regulations, and other evidence, to determine whether GLCA is an educational institution.

We find it particularly dispositive that GLCA is a “tuition-free virtual public school option” as described on its website. See http://www.connectionsacademy.com/michigan-cyber-school. Elsewhere, GLCA identifies itself as a “statewide cyber school” in Michigan. http://www.connectionsacademy.com/michigan-cyber-school/learn-more/faqs#1. GLCA states that it is subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) rules. Id. The term “cyber school” is legally significant and corresponds to a special category of public schools established under Michigan law. Michigan provides that a “cyber school” provides “full-time instruction to pupils through online learning or otherwise on a computer or other technology” and that a cyber school is also a type of “school of excellence.” Mich. Comp. Laws §§ 380.551(2)(e), 380.553a(1). A “school of excellence is a public school under section 2 of article VIII of the state constitution, is a school district . . . and is subject to the leadership and general supervision of the state board over all public education . . . a school of excellence is a body corporate and is a governmental agency. The powers granted to a school of excellence under this part constitute the performance of essential public purposes and governmental functions of this state.” Mich. Comp. Laws § 380.551(1) (2016) (internal citations omitted). Under the statute, all cyber schools are thus public schools, because they are schools are excellence.

Further, state records confirm GLCA’s status as “public school academy” (PSA), “cyber school” and “school of excellence.” The Center for Educational Performance and Information (CEPI), an agency of the State of Michigan, maintains a database of school information. See http://www.cepi.state.mi.us/eem/EntitySearchQuick.aspx. CEPI data also confirmed that Central Michigan University authorized GLCA, as well as other basic information on the school’s website.

Because GLCA is a public school, it is assumed to be an educational institution, and no further inquiry is required. POMS RS 00205.250(B).

CONCLUSION

Based on the foregoing, we conclude that the Great Lakes Cyber Academy is an educational institution. Accordingly, we find that B~ meets this threshold requirement for eligibility for child insurance benefits as a student.

Kathryn Caldwell

Regional Chief Counsel

Region V, Chicago

By: Ryan Shafer

Assistant Regional Counsel

D. PR 16-101 Michigan Virtual Charter Academy

Date: March 18, 2016

1. Syllabus

Michigan Virtual Charter Academy, an online public high school based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, qualifies as an educational institution for the 2016-2017 academic year, although that status may change if it is unable to improve its performance. MVCA presented a redesign plan to the MDE on February 18, 2015 to address their status in the bottom 5% of Michigan schools.

2. Opinion

You asked whether Michigan Virtual Charter Academy (MVCA) in Grand Rapids, Michigan qualifies an educational institution for the purpose of awarding student benefits. For the reasons discussed below, we conclude that MVCA is an educational institution.

BACKGROUND

The Social Security Act provides for the payment of Child Insurance Benefits to certain children of individuals who are entitled to old-age or disability benefits. 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(1). A child can obtain student benefits if she is between 18 and 19 years old and is enrolled as a full-time student at a qualifying educational institution. See POMS RS 00205.001. K~ seeks student benefits due to her reported status as a full-time student at MVCA, an online public school with a physical address in Grand Rapids, Michigan. MVCA’s website confirms that it is an online charter school authorized by Grand Valley State University that provides tuition-free public education for grades K-12. See Michigan Virtual Charter Academy, http://mvca.k12.com/ (last visited Dec. 10, 2015).

K~ submitted an SSA-1372-BK form stating that she is currently enrolled in full-time attendance at MVCA, which she has been attending since February XX, 2015. K~ is scheduled to attend 30 hours per week. Her expected graduation date is June 2016. K2~, Office Administrator at MVCA, certified K~’s SSA-1372-BK form. K2~ stated that the information provided by K~ was correct, and that the school’s course of study was at least 13 weeks in duration. Although K2~ indicated that she annotated K~’s expected graduation date on a later page, this page was not submitted.

DISCUSSION

To qualify as an educational institution for the purpose of awarding student benefits, an institution must provide a secondary education “as determined under the law of the State or other jurisdiction in which it is located.” 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(7)(C)(i); see also POMS RS 00205.200(A). An online school that offers Internet-based courses to students is governed by the same analysis; it must be “consistent with the law of the state in which it is located.” POMS RS 00205.295. Public high schools are assumed to be qualifying educational institutions unless there is evidence to the contrary. POMS RS 00205.250(B)(1).

Michigan law allows for the creation of a cyber school that is a “school of excellence.” Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 380.553a(1). The governing board of a state public university may act as an authorizing body to issue a contract to organize a “school of excellence” that is a cyber school. Mich. Comp. Laws § 380.552(6)(d). Although Michigan law requires school districts to provide at least 1,098 hours and 175 days of pupil instruction, Mich. Comp. Laws § 388.1701(3)(a), this requirement does not apply to cyber schools. Mich. Comp. Laws § 388.1701(11); see also Mich. Comp. Laws § 380.553a(4) (“[A] cyber school is not required to comply with any rule that would require a pupil’s physical presence or attendance in a classroom.”).

Grand Valley State University, a Michigan state public university, issued the charter contract to organize MVCA as a school of excellence that is a cyber school on August 5, 2010.[4] MVCA Contract, https://www.gvsu.edu/cso/school-download.htm?type=contract&profileId=DBA6DC42-CFE8-FAE1-7243C43F9B723A38 (last visited Dec. 18, 2015). In addition, MVCA is listed as a “school of excellence” by the Center for Educational Performance and Information, a state organization. CEPI Entity Report, Michigan Virtual Charter Academy, http://www.cepi.state.mi.us/eem/EntitySearchQuick.aspx (last visited Dec. 11, 2015) (in “Entity Name Contains” field, search “Michigan Virtual Charter Academy”). Thus, MVCA constitutes a valid cyber school of excellence under Michigan state law.

A “school of excellence,” including a cyber school, is a public school under the state constitution and is subject to supervision by the state board of education. Mich. Comp. Laws § 380.551(1). “[I]f the superintendent of public instruction determines that a school of excellence site that has been operating for at least 4 years is among the lowest achieving 5% of all public schools in th[e] state . . . and is not currently undergoing reconstitution under this section, the superintendent of public instruction shall notify the school of excellence’s authorizing body.” Mich. Comp. Laws § 380.561(5). If the school of excellence is a cyber school, “the authorizing body shall revoke the school of excellence’s contract, effective at the end of the current school year.” Id.

MVCA opened in September 2010. CEPI Entity Report, Michigan Virtual Charter Academy, http://www.cepi.state.mi.us/eem/EntitySearchQuick.aspx (last visited Dec. 11, 2015) (in “Entity Name Contains” field, search “Michigan Virtual Charter Academy”). For the 2013-14 school year, the most recent year available, MVCA ranked in the lowest achieving 3% of public schools in the state in its fourth year of operation. 2013-14 Top-to-Bottom School List, http://michigan.gov/documents/mde/2013-14_TTB_Rankings_465183_7.pdf; see also Priority School List,[5] http://www.mi.gov/documents/sro/Priority_Schools_in_the_Bottom_5_Percent_499180_7.pdf. Thus, MVCA’s contract is subject to revocation under Michigan law. A representative from Grand Valley State University, the authorizing body that issued MVCA’s charter contract, indicated in a phone conversation on December 14, 2015 that the university had issued a notice of intent to revoke MVCA’s charter contract unless the school improves its performance; the MVCA Board of Directors has until January 2, 2016 to respond. J~, President of the MVCA Board of Directors, stated in a phone conversation on December 17, 2015 that MVCA has formulated a plan of action to improve its performance by the end of the current school year and that no action to revoke its charter contract has been taken at this time.

There is a presumption that MVCA, a public high school, is a qualifying educational institution. Although MVCA’s poor performance has placed its charter contract in jeopardy of revocation under Michigan state law, its contract has not officially been revoked at this time. Because MVCA is presently a valid online public high school under Michigan state law, we conclude that MVCA is currently an educational institution. However, if MVCA is unable to improve its performance by the end of the current school year, the school’s authorizing body may revoke its charter contract. Thus, MVCA’s status as a qualifying educational institution should be revisited at a future date.

CONCLUSION

MVCA, an online public high school based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, qualifies as an educational institution at this time, although that status may change if it is unable to improve its performance.

Kathryn Caldwell

Acting Regional Chief Counsel

Region V, Chicago

By: Jean Godfrey

Assistant Regional Counsel

E. PR 15-178 Michigan, Online School Legal Opinion – Michigan Great Lakes Virtual Academy – Reply

Date: August 6, 2015

1. Syllabus

Michigan Great Lakes Virtual Academy (MGLVA) is an online public school located in Manistee, Michigan. The Manistee Area Public School District authorizes MGLVA. SSA recognizes public high schools in the United States as educational institutions (EI), absent evidence to the contrary, and MGLVA is an EI.

2. Opinion

QUESTION PRESENTED

You asked whether Michigan Great Lakes Virtual Academy (MGLVA), an online (cyber) school, may be considered an educational institution (EI) for purposes of awarding child insurance benefits (CIB). For the reasons discussed below, we conclude that the MGLVA qualifies as an EI.

BACKGROUND

Claimant is requesting student benefits based on their status as a full time student at MGLVA. MGLVA is authorized by the Manistee Area Public School District, which is a member of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. MGLVA is a Michigan public school and the physical address is in Manistee, Michigan. There is no tuition and MGLVA provides certified teachers and educational materials to students. Upon completion of the MGLVA program students will receive a Michigan high school diploma.

A parent or learning coach logs online attendance at MGLVA daily and time spent on schoolwork is logged on a weekly basis for each course the student is enrolled in. MGLVA offers multiple curriculum options to meet the needs of students with different learning styles along with extracurricular activities and face-to-face learning programs. MGLVA requires 180 instructional days with roughly six hours of schoolwork each day.

DISCUSSION

Section 202(d)(1) of the Social Security Act provides that, under certain circumstances, a 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 child’s insurance benefits (CIB). One of the requirements for CIB eligibility for a non-disabled child is that the child must be unmarried and either under the age of 18 or a full-time elementary or secondary school student and under the age of 19. 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(1)(B). For a child who was never under a disability, CIB benefits terminate when the child turns 18 years old if he or she is not a full-time elementary or secondary school student; and benefits terminate at age 19 regardless of the child’s educational status. 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(1)(F).

The Social Security Act states at section 202(d)(7)(C)(i) that an “elementary or secondary school” is a school which provides elementary or secondary education, respectively, as determined under the law of the State or other jurisdiction in which it is located. 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(7)(C)(i). The POMS explains this regulation at RS 00205.200(A). POMS RS 00205.250(B)(1) states that it should be assumed public high schools in the United States are educational institutions, unless there is evidence to the contrary.

POMS RS 00205.295 provides policy about determining whether online schools are educational institutions for SSA purposes. The POMS defines an online school as “one that offers Internet-based courses to students.” POMS RS 00205.295 (A). The POMS recognizes that online schools vary considerably in the methods used to provide education to students. According to the POMS, “[s]ome features of online schools may include virtual classrooms; an interactive curriculum; email, telephone, and fax access to teachers; either online or in-person completion of tests; required time spent online that the school monitors; and individualized instruction.” POMS RS 00205.295 (A).

MGLVA Qualifies as an Educational Institution

Michigan recognizes public online schools as educational institutions. Michigan approved the establishment of public “cyber schools” effective 2010 pursuant to its “schools of excellence” legislation. 2009 Mich. Pub. Acts 205; see also Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 380.553a (“Cyber schools”). A “cyber school” is defined as “a school of excellence . . . that has been issued a contract to be organized and operated as a cyber school under section 552(2) [of the school code] and that provides full-time instruction to pupils through online learning or otherwise on a computer or other technology, which instruction and learning may be remote from a school facility.” Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 380.551(2)(e). The Michigan school code provides that “[a] cyber school shall provide full-time instruction to pupils through online learning or otherwise on a computer or other technology, and this instruction and learning may occur remote from a school facility.” Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 380.553a(1). A cyber school is not required to comply with any rule requiring a pupil’s physical presence or attendance in a classroom. Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 380.553a(4).

The Michigan school code permits the board of a school district that operates grades kindergarten through 12 to issue a total of two contracts to establish a “school of excellence” that is a cyber school. Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. §§ 380.551(2)(a)(i), 380.380.552(2), 380, 380.553a(1). In order to establish a cyber school, the school district must: (a) be available for enrollment to all pupils in the state who were previously enrolled in a public school; (b) offer all of grades kindergarten to 12; and (c) demonstrate experience in serving urban and at-risk student populations through an educational model involving a significant cyber component. Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 380.552(2)(a)–(c).

A contract for a cyber school must include a requirement that a teacher who holds appropriate certification according to state board rule will be responsible for the following for each course: (i) improving learning by planned instruction; (ii) diagnosing the pupil’s learning needs; (iii) assessing learning, assigning grades, and determining advancement; and (iv) reporting outcomes to administrators and parents or legal guardians. Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 380.553a(2)(a)(i)–(iv). A contract for a cyber school must also include a requirement that the cyber school will make educational services available to pupils for a minimum of at least 1,098 hours during a school year and will ensure that each pupil participates in the educational program for at least 1,098 hours during a school year. Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 380.553a(2)(b). The Michigan school code mandates various reporting requirements for cyber schools. See, e.g., Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. §§ 380.553a(5), 380.552(2)(e).

The Michigan school code provides that a “school of excellence,” including a cyber school, is a public school under the state constitution and is subject to the leadership and general supervision of the state board over all public education. Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 380.551(1).

We believe that MGLVA qualifies as an educational institution. MGLVA is a public school associated with the Manistee Schools District. The POMS provide that, absent evidence to the contrary, it should be assumed that public high schools in the United States are educational institutions. POMS RS 00205.250(B)(1). Further, MGLVA appears in several documents on the Michigan Department of Education website; in the Cyber School Frequently Asked Questions pdf under “How many cyber schools are in Michigan?” as of 2013, in the Michigan Fall 2013 NSLP E-Rate Report Published in February 2014, and the Direct Certification Information-Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) Eligibility Aggregated to District Level for 2015-2016, revised in March 2015 by the Michigan Department of Education. See http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mde/Cyber_School_FAQ_12032013_441513_7.pdf, http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mde/MI_Fall_2013 E-Rate_NSLP_Report_447174_7.pdf, and http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mde/2014-2015_CEO_Eligibility_Aggregated_to_LEA_458427 7.pdf. Thus, we can reasonably infer that MGLVA is a public high school and was created in accordance with Michigan Law.

CONCLUSION

We conclude that Michigan Great Lakes Virtual Academy, which is a public online school in Michigan, is an educational institution. If you find the statements in this case credible, and the claimant appears to satisfy the full-time attendance requirement; we conclude that you could find that claimant is a full-time secondary school student at a EI as defined under section 202(d) of the Social Security Act.

OGC Legal Intern

F. PR 14-011 Whether Daystar Christian Academy in Holland, Michigan qualifies as an Educational Institution under Michigan State Law for the purposes of Student Benefits. Claimant: S~, SSN ~

DATE: October 30, 2013

1. SYLLABUS

The Daystar Christian Academy non-public school must meet two criteria for state approval under the Private, Denominational and Parochial Schools Act (PDPSA) under Michigan law. The criteria are:

  • The school provides courses comparable to those taught in the Michigan public schools, and

  • The teaching staff meets the requirements to teach in the Michigan public schools.

The Michigan Department of Education’s handbook for Non-public and Home School Information makes no distinction under PDPSA between the first eight grades and high school.

Under Michigan law, public school teachers must hold a valid teaching certificate. Non-public school teachers may qualify to teach in three ways: (1) obtain a Michigan teaching certificate; (2) obtain a substitute expert in residence, full-year, or emergency teaching permit; or (3) obtain a bachelor’s degree.

The field office has been unable to develop the factual record necessary to determine whether Daystar Christian Academy satisfies the curriculum and teaching requirements under the PDPSA.

2. OPINION

You asked us to consider whether the curriculum offered by Daystar Christian Academy satisfies the requirements set forth under applicable Michigan State Law and whether Daystar can be considered an Educational Institution (EI) for the purposes of student benefits.

Background

The claimant, S~ applied to continue his Child’s Insurance Benefits (CIB) due to his status as a full-time student at Daystar Christian Academy, a non-public high school in Holland, Michigan [6] With his application, the claimant submitted an SSA-1372-BK form stating that he had been attending Daystar Christian Academy since September 8, 2011, and was currently in full-time attendance. He was scheduled to attend Daystar Christian Academy 25 hours per week. He expected to graduate in June 2014.

The SSA-1372-BK was certified by K~, the principal of Daystar Christian Academy. K~ stated that the information the claimant had provided was correct, and that the school’s course of study was at least 13 weeks in duration.

The field office completed a Report of Contact indicating that an employee contacted K~ by telephone and email in April 2013. According to the report, K~ stated that she would respond with the information requested, but she had not responded.

Discussion

The Social Security Act (Act) provides for the payment of CIB to certain children of individuals who are entitled to old-age or disability insurance benefits or who died as fully or currently insured individuals. See 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(1). As relevant here, to qualify for student benefits, the claimant must be an elementary or secondary school student at an educational institution that qualifies as a school under state law. See 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(7)(c)(i); POMS RS 00205.001(A). He must also attend that school full-time. See 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(7)(A); POMS RS 00205.001(A).

Michigan law applies to this question because Daystar Christian Academy operates out of Holland, Michigan, and the claimant resides in Michigan. See 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(7)(c)(i).

A. There are not sufficient facts to render an opinion as to whether Daystar Christian Academy is an EI under applicable Michigan State Law.

A school is an EI if it provides elementary or secondary education as determined under the law of the state or other jurisdiction in which it is located. POMS RS 00205.200. In Michigan, non-public schools are state-approved if they comply with the Private, Denominational and Parochial Schools Act (PDPSA). Mich. Comp. Laws § 388.551 et seq.; Mich. Comp. Laws § 380.6(10). Under the PDPSA, a non-public school must meet two criteria for state approval: (1) the school provides courses comparable to those taught in the Michigan public schools, and (2) the teaching staff meet the requirements to teach in the Michigan public schools. Mich. Comp. Laws §§ 388.551, 388.553. Notably, the PDPSA appears on its face to apply only to schools providing instruction to students in the first eight grades. Mich. Comp. Laws § 388.552. Our office has been unable to locate a similar statute that governs non-public high schools, and the Michigan Department of Education’s handbook for Nonpublic and Home School Information from August 2012 makes no distinction under the PDPSA between the first eight grades and high school. http://www.michigan.gov/documents/Info2005_132227_7.pdfst visited on August 23, 2013). Accordingly, we are comfortable assuming that the PDPSA applies to non-public high schools.

To earn a high school diploma in Michigan, public school students must complete credits in math, English, U.S. history and geography, world history and geography, economics, civics, health and physical education, and art. Mich. Comp. Laws § 380.1278a. Although Michigan does not require specific content in the basic courses, non-public high schools are encouraged to use the High School Content Expectations developed by the Michigan Department of Education. Id.; see also http://www.michigan.gov/mde/0,1607,7-140-38924---,00.html Thus, for Daystar Christian Academy to satisfy the PDPSA (and thus qualify as an EI) the school should offer courses in math, English, U.S. history and geography, world history and geography, economics, civics, health and physical education, and art.

Under Michigan law, school districts must hire qualified teachers, and a teacher’s contract is valid only if he or she holds a valid teaching certificate at the time the contractual period begins. Mich. Comp. Laws § 380.1231. However, based on official Michigan documents located on the State of Michigan website, an individual may qualify to teach in Michigan non-public schools in one of three ways: (1) obtain a Michigan teaching certificate; (2) obtain a substitute, expert in residence, full-year, or emergency teaching permit; or (3) obtain a bachelor’s degree. See http://www.michigan.gov/documents/Info2005_132227_7.pdf at 5. [7]

At the present time, the field office has been unable to develop the factual record necessary to determine whether Daystar Christian Academy satisfies the curriculum and teaching requirements under the PDPSA. The website for Daystar Christian Academy, http://dsca.webs.com/, did not provide any relevant information regarding the school’s curriculum or teaching staff. Also, we have been unable to contact anyone at Daystar Christian Academy for the required information. In the absence of further information on curriculum and teacher qualifications, we are unable to say whether Daystar Christian Academy is an EI.

B. The claimant attends school full-time.

In the event that Daystar Christian Academy satisfies the two criteria required of non-public schools under the PDPSA and the agency concludes that it is an EI, we also consider whether it is reasonable to find that the claimant is a full-time student.

In order to be a full-time elementary or secondary school student, the student must satisfy both federal and state standards. 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b), (c); POMS RS 00205.300(A). To be considered full-time, a student must (1) be in full-time attendance in a day or evening non-correspondence course of at least 13 weeks duration, (2) carry a subject load considered full-time for day students under the institution’s standards and practices, and (3) attend school at least 20 hours a week. 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b), (c); POMS RS 00205.300(B), (C).

K~, the principal of Daystar Christian Academy, certified that the claimant was scheduled to attend school at least 25 hours per week and was considered to be attending the school full-time. K~ also certified that the school’s program is of at least 13 weeks duration. Thus, it would be reasonable to conclude that the claimant is a full-time student at Daystar Christian Academy.

Conclusion

We cannot render an opinion as to whether Daystar Christian Academy qualifies as an EI because we do not have sufficient information to determine if Daystar Christian Academy satisfies the two criteria under the PDPSA: (1) whether the school provides courses comparable to those taught in the Michigan public schools and (2) whether its teaching staff meets the requirements of Michigan public school teachers. We conclude that it is reasonable to find that the claimant, S~, has satisfied the full-time attendance status required for payment of benefits.

Donna L. Calvert
Regional Chief Counsel

By: Lu Han

Assistant Regional Counsel

G. PR 01-035 Review of the Christian Liberty Academy to Determine Whether It Meets the Educational Requirements of the State of Michigan - R~

DATE: July 18, 2000

1. SYLLABUS

Christian Liberty Academy (CLA) of Arlington Heights, Illinois, provides two educational program options for home-schooled students: the Christian Liberty Academy School System (CLASS) and the CLA family plan.

Michigan law recognizes that home schooling may satisfy the State's compulsory education law. Intermediate and local school districts interpret and enforce Michigan's Compulsory School Attendance Law.

CLA can be considered an educational institution (EI) for Michigan students enrolled in CLA's CLASS plan since the curriculum includes all of the subjects the State of Michigan requires and, therefore, satisfies the state's compulsory education law.

The CLA family plan offers the same curriculum and course materials as the CLASS plan. If the family plan parents provide the full curriculum, the CLA family plan can be considered an EI.

If they do not provide the full curriculum, the local school district's interpretation of Michigan law determines whether the CLA family plan can be considered an EI. It is necessary to develop fully information about the curriculum for students enrolled in CLA's family plan.

2. OPINION

You asked that we review materials you sent to determine whether Christian Liberty Academy (CLA) qualifies as an educational institution under Michigan law. You indicated you need this information to determine whether R~ , a home-schooled CLA student, qualifies for student benefits on the account of G~ . We believe that the first of CLA's two programs we discuss is an educational institution (EI), but recommend you contact our office for questions concerning the EI status of the second program CLA offers. Further, we conclude that R~'s CLA program is an EI.

Background

The CLA of Arlington Heights, Illinois, is an independent, non-denominational Christian education program which provides curriculum materials and support to parents who desire to home school their children via CLA's satellite services. CLA provides two options for home-schooled students and their parents. They may subscribe to either the CLASS administration plan or the family administration plan. Students who enroll in the CLASS plan obtain academic credit for their work and, upon graduation, receive a diploma. For CLASS-plan students, the CLA provides services which include grading tests, keeping academic records, and issuing report cards, diplomas, and transcripts.

CLA provides fewer services to families who choose to enroll in the family plan. These families may have experience with home schooling and do not require academic support services. Parents of family-plan students grade and keep students' work, keep their own records, assign academic credit, and issue their own report cards, diplomas, and transcripts. These students receive no official course credit from CLA.

R~ is a Michigan student who is being home-schooled in one of the CLA plans — it is unclear from the materials you provided which program R~ is enrolled in. She turned eighteen years old on November XX, 1999. During the relevant school year (September 7, 1999 to June 30, 2000), R~'s mother instructed R~ for at least 20 hours a week in courses CLA provided. These courses were algebra, English literature, world history, grammar, and economics. CLA certified that R~ was considered to be in full-time attendance.

Discussion

The Social Security Act provides for the payment of child's insurance benefits (CIB) to certain unmarried children of individuals who are entitled to old-age or disability insurance benefits. 42 U.S.C. § 402(d). Under the provision pertinent here, an eligible child must be under the age of 19 and a full-time elementary or secondary school student. 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(1). For purposes of entitlement to child's benefits under this section, a full-time elementary or secondary school student must be in full-time attendance as a student at an elementary or secondary school, as determined by the Commissioner. 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(7)(A). Section 202(d)(7)(c)(i) of the Act states that an "elementary or secondary school" is "a school which provides elementary or secondary education, respectively, as determined under the law of the State or other jurisdiction in which it is located."

The regulations at 20 C.F.R. § 404.367 provide that a child may be entitled to benefits as a full-time elementary or secondary school student if she is instructed in elementary or secondary education at home in accordance with a home school law of the State or other jurisdiction in which the student resides. 20 C.F.R. § 404.367 further states that eligible students must be in full-time attendance in a day or evening non-correspondence course of at least 13 weeks duration for at least twenty hours per week, and carry a subject load which is considered full-time for day students under standards or practices set by the State or other jurisdiction in which the student resides. Further, eligible students may not be paid by an employer who has requested or required that they attend school; must be in grade 12 or below; and must not be subject to provisions precluding payment of benefits to certain prisoners and other inmates of publicly funded institutions pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § 404.468. 20 C.F.R. § 404.367.

In addition to the statute and regulations, the Program Operation Manual System (POMS) provides additional guidance for determining certain students' eligibility for child's benefits. POMS section RS 00205.275 states that student benefits are payable if the law of the State in which the home school is located recognizes home schooling as an educational institution (EI), the home school the student attends meets the requirements of State law, and the student meets all the other necessary requirements.

Thus, the statute, regulations, and POMS all indicate that whether CLA is an EI and whether R~ is eligible for CIB turn on Michigan law.

Michigan law recognizes that home schooling may satisfy the State's compulsory education law. Michigan law sets out the State's compulsory education requirements for students between the ages of 6 and 16 and requires them, with certain exceptions, to attend public school during the entire school year. Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 380.1561. Subsection (f) states an exception for a child who "is being educated at the child's home by his or her parent or legal guardian in an organized educational program in the subject areas of reading, spelling, mathematics, science, history, civics, literature, writing, and English grammar." We sought clarification from the Michigan Department of Education of the implications of the statute for home-schooled students. Officials there provided information which indicates that, for home-schooled students operating under exemption (f), "intermediate and local school districts are responsible for interpreting and enforcing the Compulsory School Attendance Law."

Under these rules, CLA can be considered an EI for students in Michigan enrolled in CLA's CLASS plan. According to CLA's materials, CLASS-plan students are instructed in a curriculum which encompasses all of the subject areas the State of Michigan requires. Accordingly, the CLA CLASS plan satisfies the state's compulsory education law and would be an EI under the agency's guidelines and Michigan law.

For students enrolled in the CLA family plan, whether their educational program complies with Michigan's compulsory education law and constitutes an EI will turn on how a student's local school district interprets Michigan law. The information CLA provided indicates that family-plan parents educate their children in the same curriculum and course materials CLA offers its CLASS-plan students. These programs will likely satisfy the State's compulsory education law and the agency's EI requirements. Nonetheless, there is no oversight of whether parents in CLA's family plan are providing the full curriculum. If they are, it would be and EI. If not, it may depend on how the local school board interprets Michigan law. Therefore, we suggest you fully develop information about the curriculum for students enrolled in CLA's family plan. If necessary, you can send these to the RCC for review.

Finally, it is unclear from the materials you sent us whether R~ is enrolled in the CLASS plan or the family plan. If she is enrolled in the CLASS plan, she satisfies the agency's requirements for benefits as a full-time student because, as discussed above, CLA can be considered an EI for its CLASS-plan students.

If R~ is enrolled in CLA's family plan, whether she is in full-time attendance depended on her local school district's interpretation of Michigan law. We contacted R~'s local school district to determine under what circumstances, if any, officials there would investigate or pursue a home-schooled student like R~ for noncompliance with the State's compulsory education law. We note that R~'s 1999-2000 curriculum lacked courses in reading, spelling, science, and civics (although reading and spelling seem inappropriate for R~'s age and educational level). See Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 380.1561(f). School district officials informed us that once they learn a child is being home-schooled, they do not generally investigate the child's educational program for more specific compliance issues. In particular, once local school district officials ascertain that a student is being home-schooled, they generally do not undertake further investigation or enforcement action concerning the particulars of the student's curriculum. Even if R~ is enrolled in CLA's family plan, R~'s home school program is an EI under the agency's guidelines. The information you sent indicates that R~ satisfies the remaining requirements of 20 C.F.R. § 404.367, set forth above, for eligibility for student's benefits.

Conclusion

In summary, we conclude that CLA is an EI for its CLASS-plan students in Michigan. Whether it is an EI for its family-plan students will depend on the particular coursework offered and the local school district's enforcement of the law. Here, however, R~ is in full-time attendance regardless of which CLA plan she is enrolled in.


Footnotes:

[1]

. Under Michigan law, “a cyber school is not required to comply with any rule that would require a pupil’s physical presence or attendance in a classroom.” Mich. Comp. Laws § 380.553a(4).

[2]

. Prior to June 21, 2016, Mich. Comp. Laws § 380.561(5) provided that a cyber school’s contract was subject to revocation if the school had been operating for at least 4 years and ranked among the lowest 5% of all public schools in the state.

[3]

. We note that portions of the school attendance dates for the current school year and last school year are incomplete.

[4]

. . . MVCA’s charter contract is set to expire on June 30, 2017. MVCA Contract p. 24, https://www.gvsu.edu/cso/school-download.htm?type=contract&profileId=DBA6DC42-CFE8-FAE1-7243C43F9B723A38 (last visited Dec. 18, 2015).

[5]

. . . Pursuant to Michigan law, “the superintendent of public instruction shall publish a list of the public schools in th[e] state that the department has determined to be among the lowest achieving 5% of all public schools in th[e] state.” Mich. Comp. Laws § 380.12809(c)(1). Each school on this list is designated a “priority school,” a status that attaches for four years regardless of the school’s future ranking. School Reform Office Priority Schools List, http://www.michigan.gov/sro/0,5916,7-340-71975_73751---,00.html (last visited Dec. 18, 2015). When a school is designated a priority school, the school board of directors “shall submit a redesign plan to the state school reform/redesign officer.” Mich. Comp. Laws § 380.12809(c)(2). On February 18, 2015, MVCA executed a Redesign Plan to be implemented during the 2015-16 school year. MVCA Redesign Plan, http://www.michigan.gov/documents/sro/MI_Virtual_Charter_Academy_Plan.02.18.2015_503238_7.pdf.

[6]

. . . There is a Daystar Christian Academy located in Evart, Michigan. We spoke to the principal at Daystar Christian Academy in Evart, Michigan who confirmed that this school is not affiliated with Daystar Christian Academy in Holland, Michigan.

[7]

. . . It seems that some inconsistency exists between the requirements for teachers in public and non-public schools (e.g., it is unclear whether a bachelor’s degree alone would qualify an individual to teach in a Michigan public school). We will gladly revisit this issue should we learn additional information about the teaching staff at Daystar Christian Academy.


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/1507905025
PR 07905.025 - Michigan - 05/24/2017
Batch run: 09/14/2017
Rev:05/24/2017