TN 52 (06-17)

PR 07905.053 Washington

A. PR 17-085 Eligibility for Child’s Insurance Benefits as a Full-Time Elementary or Secondary School Student Based on Enrollment at Zion Academy of America

Date: May 11, 2017

1. Syllabus

The Zion Academy of America is not considered an EI under Washington law. It is a distance learning program for home-based students, which does not meet the minimum approval requirements. Also, the instruction through Zion Academy does not meet Tennessee’s requirements for homeschooling.

2. Opinion

QUESTION

You asked whether Zion Academy of America (Zion), an educational entity located in the State of Washington, is an educational institution for determining if the claimant, a Tennessee resident, is eligible for child’s insurance benefits (CIB) as a full-time secondary school student. You also asked whether the claimant is in full-time attendance.

OPINION

Zion is not an educational institution under Washington law and Claimant is not home schooled under Tennessee law. The claimant also does not meet the standards for full-time attendance for determining his eligibility for CIB.

BACKGROUND

According to the information provided, W~ (Claimant), resides in Tennessee, and was receiving CIB as a child under age 18 on the earnings record of W2~, the number holder. Claimant turned 18 years old on December 2016. He has applied for a continuation of CIB as a full-time student.

On January 2017, Claimant completed a Student’s Statement Regarding School Attendance form (Form SSA-1372). Claimant indicated that he was in full-time attendance and that Zion is a private school program. Claimant reported that the school year began on September 1, 2016, and would end on May 24, 2017. Claimant reported that he was scheduled to attend 25-30 hours per week and was expected to graduate in June 2017. A records administrator at Zion, M~, completed the Certification by School Official page of Form SSA-1372 on January 26, 2017, on which she indicated that the information Claimant provided was correct, that the course of study at Zion lasts at least 13 weeks, and that it operates on a yearly basis.

Zion is located in Washington. See Zion Academy of America, Contact Us, http://www.zionacademy.com/contact-us (last visited March 30, 2017). Zion describes itself as an “independent Christian education ministry” that is “an accredited, distance learning program for home-based students.” Zion Academy of America, Who We Are, http://www.zionacademy.com/homeschool-program-information (last visited March 30, 2017). Zion provides “a customized full-time program and school administrative services” working to “achieve the best homeschool education possible.” See Zion Academy of America, What We Offer, http://www.zionacademy.com/what-we-offer (last visited March 30, 2017). Zion’s website states that it is not church affiliated and not public education affiliated. See id. Zion’s website also states that it is not a campus-based school, but is “an internet-based school for students to study at home,” and it is not an online course provider, but provides “print-based curriculum in unit study format.” See id. In addition, Zion’s website indicates that it or the service it provides is commonly called a distance learning school, correspondence school, umbrella school, Christian school, private school, cover school, K-12 school, and internet school. See id. Zion’s “distant learning school is a full-time or part-time program” that customizes assignments and develops scheduled lesson plans for each student. See Zion Academy of America, K-12 Program, http://www.zionacademy.com/total-care (last visited March 30, 2017). Zion’s website suggests that daily assignments generally take 2 to 3 hours to complete with upper level students possibly needing more time. See id.

DISCUSSION

To be eligible for CIB on the earnings record of an individual who is entitled to old-age or disability insurance benefits, or of an individual who dies a fully or currently insured individual, an individual who is 18 years of age 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 (2017);[1] Program Operations Manual System (POMS) RS 00205.001A. An individual may qualify as a “full-time 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) as determined under the law of the state in which 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 where he or she resides. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a)(1); POMS RS 00205.275A.

Educational Institution under Washington Law

Because Zion is located in the State of Washington, we look to Washington law to determine whether Zion is a school that provides elementary or secondary education. Under Washington law, a student may obtain secondary education by attending public school, “an approved private school,” or through home-based instruction. See Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 28A.225.010(1) (West 2017).[2] Washington has an approval process for providers of online public education, seeWash. Rev. Code Ann. § 28A.250.020, and the Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction maintains a website of approved online school programs and course providers. See Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.250.030(1); Approved Providers List, Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, http://digitallearning.k12.wa.us/approval/providers/ (last visited March 30, 2017). Zion is not on this approved providers list. Moreover, Zion’s website states that it is not public education affiliated and is not an online course provider. See Zion Academy of America, What We Offer, http://www.zionacademy.com/what-we-offer (last visited March 30, 2017). Thus, Zion does not meet the requirements of a public online education provider under Washington law.

Washington law requires private schools to be “approved” by the Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 28A.195.010. Washington approves private schools based on their compliance with minimum requirements, including length of the school year and day; teacher certification; and curriculum, among other requirements. See Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §§ 28A.195.010; 28A.225.010(1)(a); 28A.305.130(5). The Superintendent of Public Instruction publishes a list of approved private schools in Washington. See Private Schools, Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, http://www.k12.wa.us/PrivateEd/PrivateSchools/pubdocs/ApprovedPrivateSchoolsList.xlsx (last visited March 30, 2017). Zion is not on this list and we have no other evidence that Zion meets the minimum requirements to be a private school under Washington law. Therefore, Zion is not an educational institution under Washington law.

Home Schooling under Tennessee Law

Because Zion does not meet the requirements to be an educational institution under Washington law, we look to see if Claimant is instructed in elementary or secondary education at home in accordance with the home school law of Tennessee, where Claimant resides. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a)(1); POMS RS 00205.275.B. Claimant indicated that Zion is a private school, but Zion’s website indicates that it provides a means of home schooling. See Zion Academy of America, What We Offer, http://www.zionacademy.com/what-we-offer (last visited April 6, 2017). Under Tennessee law, a “home school” is a school conducted or directed by a parent or parents or a legal guardian or guardians for their own children. See Tenn. Code. Ann. §§ 49-6-3001(c)(3)(A)(ii), 49-6-3050(a) (West 2017).[3] A parent-teacher conducting a home school must comply with extensive requirements. See Tenn. Code. Ann. § 49-6-3050(b). These requirements include providing notice of intent to conduct a home school, the curriculum to be offered, and the qualifications of the parent-teacher; maintaining attendance records; instruction for at least 4 hours per day for the same number of instructional days as required for public schools; standardized testing; and proof of vaccinations. See id.

The information provided does not indicate that Claimant’s instruction through Zion meets any of the requirements for a home school under Tennessee law. Claimant may be instructed for 4 hours per day – he reported and M~ confirmed that he attended 25-30 hours of school per week, which would result in at least 5 hours of instruction per weekday – but nothing indicates that his instruction at home met the other requirements of a home school. See id.

Tennessee also recognizes two hybrids of home schools and church-related schools (CRS). See Tenn. Code. Ann. § 49-6-3050(a)(2), (a)(3). In the first type, a parent teaching through a home school may associate with, and students may enroll with, a CRS, whereby the CRS’s director supervises the home school and the CRS administers or offers standardized achievement tests. See Tenn. Code. Ann. § 49-6-3050(a)(2)(A). In the second type, a parent-teacher may enroll the parent’s home school student or students in a CRS and participate as a teacher in that CRS. See Tenn. Code. Ann. § 49-6-3050(a)(3). A CRS is a school operated by denominational, parochial, or other bona fide church organizations that is required to meet the standards of accreditation or membership of the Tennessee Association of Christian Schools, the Association of Christian Schools International, the Tennessee Association of Independent Schools, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the Tennessee Association of Non-Public Academic Schools, the Tennessee Association of Church Related Schools, the Tennessee Alliance of Church Related Schools, or a school affiliated with Accelerated Christian Education, Inc. See id. § 49-50-801(a). Although Zion’s website states that it is accredited by the National Association of Private Schools, Zion does not purport to be accredited by one of the listed entities required for recognition as a CRS under Tennessee law. See Zion Academy of America, Accreditation, http://www.zionacademy.com/accreditation (last visited March 31, 2017); Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-50-801(a). Additionally, Zion’s website states that it is not church affiliated. See Zion Academy of America, What We Offer, http://www.zionacademy.com/what-we-offer (last visited March 30, 2017). As such, Zion cannot qualify as a CRS and, therefore, Claimant’s instruction through Zion does not meet the requirements of a home school affiliated with a CRS or a CRS operating at home. See Tenn. Code. Ann. § 49-6-3050(a)(2), (a)(3). Thus, the information provided does not establish that Claimant is instructed in a home study program under Tennessee law.

Additionally, Claimant’s studies through Zion do not appear to satisfy the independent study provisions of the regulations. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a)(2). Independent study is a method of alternative secondary education used in some States. POMS RS 00205.285.A. 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 Zion. In fact, Zion’s website states that it is not public education affiliated. See Zion Academy of America, What We Offer, http://www.zionacademy.com/what-we-offer (last visited March 30, 2017). Accordingly, Claimant’s study through Zion does not satisfy the independent study requirements.

Finally, you have also asked whether Claimant is in FTA. A claimant attending an on-line school is in FTA if he or she is attending an on-line school consistent with the law of the State in which the on-line school is located (i.e., an educational institution), and meets both State and Federal standards for FTA. See POMS RS 00205.295.B. Similarly, a home schooled individual must meet the Federal standards for FTA and meet the home school requirements of the state in which the home school is located. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b)-(c); POMS RS 00205.275B. Because Claimant’s study through Zion does not qualify as an educational institution under Washington law or a homeschool or hybrid CRS program under Tennessee law, and it is not an independent study program, 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 00205.395.B; POMS RS 00205.300.A.

CONCLUSION

Because Zion does not meet the requirements for an educational institution under Washington law and Claimant is not instructed at home in accordance with Tennessee law, Claimant does not meet the requirements for CIB as a full-time secondary school student.

Sincerely,

Mary Ann Sloan

Regional Chief Counsel

By: Christopher Yarbrough

Assistant Regional Counsel

B. PR 10-027 Eligibility for Student Benefits for Individual Enrolled at Lake Washington Technical Academy – REPLY

DATE: November 18, 2009

1. SYLLABUS

The Lake Washington Technical Academy provides secondary education in accordance with Washington State law and is, therefore, an educational institution for SSA purposes.

2. OPINION

You have asked whether the Columbia River Christian Academy (CRCA) in Kettle Falls, Washington, meets the educational requirements of the State of Washington, and can be considered an "educational institution" (EI) for purposes of Title II student benefits.

QUESTION PRESENTED

You asked whether Robert F~ (Robert), an 18-year old student enrolled at Lake Washington Technical Academy, can qualify for student benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act.

ANSWER

Yes, Robert can qualify for student benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act as he is attending an educational institution as defined by state law. Robert’s attendance for the current school year (2009/2010) is full-time, and therefore, he is eligible for student benefits. However, the evidence does not establish that Robert’s attendance for the last school year (2008/2009) met the requirements to be considered full-time attendance and further development of that issue is necessary.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Robert. F~ became entitled to retirement benefits effective September 2006. His son, Robert, became entitled to child’s benefits at that same time. When Robert turned 18-years old, his benefits were terminated, effective March 2009. In February 2009, Robert provided a completed SSA-1372, Student’s Statement Regarding School Attendance, indicating he had been enrolled at Lake Washington Technical Academy (the Academy) since September 22, 2008, and would continue to be enrolled through June 24, 2009 (the 2008/2009 school year) with an expected graduation date of December 2010. He stated he was attending school 18 hours per week. In September 2009, Robert submitted a second SSA-1372 for the period September 21, 2009 through June 18, 2010 (the 2009/2010 school year). He again stated he was enrolled at the Academy with an expected graduation date of December 2010. However, he was attending school 30 hours per week. Both SSA-1372 forms were signed by Sara L~, a counselor at the school, certifying that the information provided by Robert was true and correct. She also certified that the school’s course of study was at least 13 weeks in duration.

The Academy is run by the Lake Washington Technical College. It is a program for high school students and allows them to concurrently train for a vocational career and earn a high school diploma. Students must meet the following criteria to attend: 1) be at least 16 years of age and not more than 20 years of age as of September 1; 2) have a minimum 2.0 grade point average (GPA); 3) have completed the 10th grade; 4) have not already completed high school or high school graduation requirements; 5) attend a preliminary orientation and take mandatory entrance testing; and 6) complete all other admission paperwork. In addition, the Academy only accepts students from 30 regional school districts.

After admission to the program, students are required to maintain a 2.0 GPA, make satisfactory progress towards meeting the high school graduation requirements, meet attendance requirements, and comply with the student code of conduct. The program has approximately 300 to 350 students each year. Upon completion of the program, students are awarded a high school diploma.

DISCUSSION

Social Security program requirements for eligibility for student’s benefits.

There are two requirements to receive student benefits for an individual who is 18 years old, but has not attained age 19. First, the individual must be an elementary or secondary school student at an educational institution. Second, the individual must be attending school full-time. 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(1)(B).

1. Attendance at an educational institution.

An individual is considered a student if he is attending an elementary or secondary school as determined under the laws of the State or other jurisdiction in which it is located. 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a). In addition, participation in a home school program or in an elementary or secondary independent study program in accordance with the applicable State law qualifies as attendance in an elementary or secondary school. 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a)(1) & (2). Pursuant to the Program Operations Manual System (POMS), public elementary, junior high schools, and high schools are educational institutions, unless there is evidence to the contrary. POMS RS 00205.250(B)(1).

Under the Basic Education Act in Washington (the Act), the goal of the state is to provide students, kindergarten through high school, with opportunities to develop knowledge and skills essential to read, know and apply core concepts a variety of disciplines (i.e., mathematics, social sciences, civics and history, etc.), think analytically and creatively, and understand the important of work and finance. Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.150.210. A program of basic education is one that meets the goals of the Act. Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.150.203(8).

One such program that meets the goals of the Act is a program at a vocational college. Pursuant to the Act, the state funds, either directly to the vocational/technical college or through a school district, programs for high school students at vocational colleges. Wash. Rev. Code § 28A.150.275. Technical colleges have the authority to issue a high school diploma or certificate to an individual who meets the requirements for high school completion, subject to the rules adopted by the superintendent of public instruction and the state board of education. Wash. Rev. Code § 28B.50.535(1).

Thus, in Washington a student may attend public high school at a vocational college and earn a high school diploma. Therefore, they are educational institutions under state law. 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a), POMS RS 00205.250B)(1). Robert’s attendance at the Academy qualifies as attendance an educational institution, and he is eligible for student benefits.

2. Full-time attendance.

In addition to attendance at an educational institution, a student must attend elementary or secondary school full-time in order to be entitled to student benefits. 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(c). To be considered full-time attendance, the student’s scheduled attendance must be at the rate of at least 20 hours per week, unless the school does not have a 20-hour per week schedule and going to that school is the only feasible alternative, or a medical condition prevents such attendance. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.367(c) (1) and (2). Similarly, a student is considered to be attending school full-time if he is attending a day or evening non-correspondence course that lasts at least 13 weeks and carries a subject load considered full-time for day students under the institution’s standards and practices. 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b), POMS RS 00205.300(B).

According to the first SSA-1372 form completed by Robert, he was attending school 18 hours for the 2008/2009 school year. Ms. L~ certified that the course of study was at least 13 weeks in duration. However, there is no information as to whether Robert carried a subject load that would be considered full-time under the Academy’s standards and practices. Accordingly, without that information, it is unclear whether Robert was attending school full-time. We recommend further development of whether Robert’s attendance was considered to be full-time under the Academy’s standards.

The second SSA-1372 form completed for the 2009/2010 school year indicates that Robert is attending school 30 hours per week. This satisfies the regulatory requirement for full-time attendance. 20 C.F.R. § 404.367. Thus, Robert’s attendance during the 2009/2010 is considered full-time and he is eligible to receive benefits until he turns 19.

CONCLUSION

We recommend that you find Robert’s attendance at the Lake Washington Technical Academy for the 2009/2010 school year satisfies the requirements for eligibility for student benefits. We further recommend that you develop the issue to determine whether Robert’s attendance during the 2008/2009 school year was considered full-time attendance under the school’s standards.

C. PR 05-018 Educational Institution Status of Columbia River Christian Academy

DATE: September 25, 2000

1. SYLLABUS

The Washington State Department of Education may provide for the approval of private schools; however, no legal sanctions are imposed on private schools that operate without State approval. Although the Columbia River Christian Academy (CRCA) is not an approved school, it provides education through grade 12. It can therefore, be considered an educational institution for SSA purposes.

2. OPINION

You have asked whether the Columbia River Christian Academy (CRCA) in Kettle Falls, Washington, meets the educational requirements of the State of Washington, and can be considered an "educational institution" (EI) for purposes of Title II student benefits.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

A Social Security Administration (SSA) field representative made a "special determination" that CRCA did not appear to be an EI because the school is not State accredited and its teachers are not State certified. Based on that "special determination," Danielle D. J~ was denied student benefits because she was attending CRCA. Ms. J~ has requested reconsideration.

Information distributed by CRCA states that it seeks to provide a high quality, Biblically-based, Christian education. Its mission, since it opened in 1973, is to prepare each child academically, spiritually, and physically to meet the demands of life. CRCA primarily uses "accelerated Christian education" materials for the academic curriculum in grades K-12. Reading readiness is the primary academic objective of the Kindergarten program. Using bright and colorful curriculum materials, students develop the skills and coordination needed for reading. Character trait stories, animal songs, art projects, games, physical development activities and even cooking projects reinforce learning. Children learn to name and print letters as well as the thirty-five letter sounds, which eliminates the confusion surrounding the fact that the same letter may make more than one sound, and allows time for coordination development before beginning letter formation (printing and writing) activities. In the first grade program, children at CRCA learn to read in nine to twelve weeks using a phonics-based approach to the ABC's. Learning activities are directed at development of physical and mental skills that better enable children to read. Songs, exercises, stories, and art projects reinforce each new letter and make learning enjoyable. Students then transition into a reading-to-learn program with a full offering of academic subjects. This approach is intended to provide students with a solid reading foundation. The curriculum is individually prescribed and begins for each student at his/her tested functional level in each academic area. Each student works at a rate commensurate with his/her own experience and capability, advancing at his/her own rate. The basic unit of the curriculum is the packet of accelerated Christian education (PACE). Each PACE includes instructional material, skill objectives, practice drills, review exercises and evaluation. A student moves to the next PACE in each subject only when mastery of the current PACE is demonstrated. This requirement helps to eliminate learning gaps as the student advances. PACEs are provided in word building, English, mathematics, science, and social studies. Washington State history, and a variety of elective subjects, including typing, computer literacy, health, speech, economics and music, are also available. Physical education activities are required of all students. At the high school level, a prescribed course of study (i.e., vocational, general, college preparation, or honors) for each student is agreed upon through parent/teacher/student conferences. Every parent is expected to participate in these conferences. Students must complete a minimum of twenty credits for high school graduation. Twelve PACEs in a subject area equal one credit. Six PACEs equal one-half credit. Students are encouraged to try to complete at least five credits per year in order to complete the graduation requirements within four years. School is in session from 8:30 a.m. until 3:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, 180 days a year, for first grade through high school. Kindergarten meets three days a week, 8:30 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.

The school manual indicates that CRCA has not sought accreditation for the following reasons: 1) they feel they would be forced to use textbooks adopted by the State Board of Education but developed by secular writers who in many ways reject the "Lordship of Jesus Christ and in fact extol teachings not found in God's Word"; 2) attendance at an accredited school is not required for re-enrollment in a public school; and 3) accreditation of a private Christian school is not required for enrollment at a college or university.

Mr. Rick R~, CRCA's principal, told us that CRCA has operated since 1973, and has never had any truancy citations or truancy-related adverse actions against the students, their parents, the school, or its staff. CRCA students have successfully transferred to public high schools, and have never had any difficulty with credits from CRCA being accepted. Mr. R~ indicated that other students have been able to collect student benefits while attending the school in the past; that many of the school's graduates have gone on to higher education at many different colleges and universities; and some have entered the United States military. Mr. R~ noted that one successful former student is now an elected Representative in the Washington State Legislature. The United States Army sent a team of three evaluators to the school for an on-site visit in May 2000, and approved the school for two more years. This particular certification means that CRCA high school diplomas will continue to be recognized as valid for enlistment in the United States Army. Mr. R~ further advised that CRCA staff members all have Bachelor's degrees and have all been involved in education for many years.

DISCUSSION

Under the Social Security Act, a student is any eligible individual in full time attendance at an educational institution (EI). See 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(1)(B); 20 C.F.R. § 404.350(a)(5); Program Operations Manual System (POMS) Section RS 00205.100. An EI is a school that provides elementary or secondary education, as determined under the law of the State or other jurisdiction in which it is located. See 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(7)(C)(i); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367; POMS RS 00205.250 (09/00).

In our memo of February 28, 2000, regarding the EI status of Life Prep Academy, another unapproved, private school situated in Washington State, we noted that previous OGC memoranda indicated that a significant issue for deciding on EI status was whether or not attendance at the school in question satisfied the State's compulsory education requirements.

The Washington State Department of Education, which is entrusted with the general supervision of the public school system, may provide for the approval of private schools. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §§ 28A.305.130.(6), 28A.195.040, 28A.225.010. The indication that a private school in Washington must be "approved" has been part of the State compulsory school attendance statute since 1971, when the allowable alternative to attendance at a public school was changed from "private school" to "approved private and/or parochial school." The amendment also defined "approved private and/or parochial schools" as "approved under regulations established by the state board of education pursuant to RCW 28A.04.120 (now RCW 28A.305.130) as now or hereafter amended." See Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 28A.27.010, Sec. 2, Chapter 215, Laws of 1971 ex. sess. The adjective "approved" was dropped in the 1980 Supplement to the 1979 Revised Code of Washington at 28A.27.010. However, it was written back into the code in the 1986 supplement to the 1985 Revised Code of Washington at 28A.27.010 and is included in the current law. See Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 28A.225.

The requirements for "approved" status in Washington are similar to expectations regarding private schools operating in Colorado, Virginia, Missouri, Florida and Montana, the States considered in the above-cited OGC memoranda. Washington's legislature "recognized that private schools should be subject only to those minimum state controls necessary to insure the health and safety of all the students in the state and to insure a sufficient basic education to meet usual graduation requirements." See Wash. Rev. Code. Ann. § 28A.195. Common school provisions that also apply to private schools require a minimum school year of 180 days; require one certified classroom teacher per 25 students; and allow uncertified "persons of unusual competence" to teach under the general supervision of a certified teacher. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 28A.150.220, 195.010(3)(b), Wash. Admin. Code § 180-90-125. Teachers of religious courses for which no counterpart exists in public schools need not be certified. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 28A.195.010(3)(a). The State wants to ensure that a basic education is available to its school-age residents, including physical education; communication skills of reading, writing, and speaking; mathematics; history; civics; literature; science; appreciation of art and music; and study of a language other than English. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 28A.195.010, 28A.230.020, Wash. Admin. Code § 180-50-115. The Basic Education Act is "not to be construed to require individual students to attend school for any particular number of hours per day or to take any particular courses." Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 28A.150.220(2). Private schools must maintain records regarding attendance and must report attendance. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 28A.195.060. Each school building should meet reasonable health and fire safety requirements. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §§ 28A.195.010, 28A.150.220, Wash. Admin. Code § 180-90-119.

Private schools may apply for "approved" status by completing an application form; submitting its school year calendar; daily schedule; overview of curricular offerings; copies of student, faculty and/or parent handbooks, if available, or a narrative statement describing the school's policies; a State standards certificate of compliance form; certificated and noncertificated personnel reports; a fire inspection and compliance form; and a health and safety inspection and compliance form. Wash. Admin. Code § 189-90-105. After a private school is approved, students attending are not considered "truant" under the State's compulsory school attendance law. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 28A.225.010(1)(a).

CRCA is not an approved private school. Nevertheless, students in regular attendance at "approved" and other private schools, including CRCA students, are not prosecuted as "truant." Because the students are in regular attendance at school, the major goal of the compulsory school attendance and admission law is accomplished. CRCA is in compliance with the spirit, if not the letter, of the compulsory education law. CRCA's principal states that the school meets minimum State education requirements. We have received no indication to the contrary.

Currently, in Washington, private schools may operate without State approval. Legal sanctions are not imposed on private schools that operate without State approval. No legal consequences are set out in the law for failure to provide annual certification that State requirements are met. Legal sanctions are not imposed on students enrolled at and regularly attending unapproved private schools, on their parents, on the schools, or on their staffs. CRCA has operated continuously without State approval or sanction since 1973. Its curriculum tracks the basic education curriculum set out for private schools in Washington, its teachers are college graduates hired primarily to teach. Its students are not prosecuted as "truant."

Prior to a recent update, the POMS delineated factors to consider in determining the EI status of an "other" (i.e., nonpublic) school as follows: 1) whether the school met the educational requirements of the State in which it was located; 2) maintained a program directed toward a specific educational objective, such as a diploma; and 3) hired either professional teachers who held State teaching certificates or individuals who met State educational requirements, used teaching materials, and taught the required courses. CRCA teachers are all college graduates and have all been involved in education for many years. They use formal teaching materials at all grade levels. CRCA requires its high school students to earn 20 credits to earn a high school diploma and graduate, and encourages its high school students to work at a pace that will accomplish this goal in four years. CRCA students who have transferred to public high schools apparently have not had any difficulty with credits from CRCA being accepted. CRCA's high school diplomas are recognized by the United States military, as well as by public and private colleges and universities. The nonpublic school's course of study is the determining factor as to EI status. See POMS RS 00205.250 (09/00). CRCA's course of study appears to meet Washington State standards. While not "certified," CRCA's teachers are not required to be certified, just as CRCA is not required to be "approved." However, CRCA teachers are all college graduates, hired primarily to teach. CRCA teachers use formal teaching materials, and have all been involved in teaching for many years. The focus of our EI analysis, made clearer by the September 2000 update to POMS, is on the quality of the education program itself, and whether the educational program comports with State standards.

CONCLUSION

Based on all of the foregoing, we believe that CRCA should be recognized as an EI for purposes of the Title II student benefits. As was the case with Life Prep Academy, the potential for future adverse State action against this nonpublic school, its students, and/or their parents, exists due to technical noncompliance with the State's compulsory education law. However, unless you have an indication that the State has changed its "hands off" policy regarding enforcement of the compulsory education regulation requiring attendance at "approved" private schools, you should be able to rely on this opinion regarding the status of the CRCA as an educational institution.

Lucille G. M~
Regional Chief Counsel, Seattle Region
By: Terrye S~

Assistant Regional Counsel

D. PR 03-097 Educational Institution Status of the Apostolic Learning Center

DATE: February 26, 2003

1. SYLLABUS

The State of Washington's “Compulsory School Attendance and Admission” statute requires parents of children eight years old and under age 18 to attend a public school, an approved private school, a home school, or an education center. The Apostolic Learning Center (ALC), although not an approved private school, provides the basic education curriculum specified for private schools in Washington State and requires its students to be in regular school attendance. Since ALC complies with State compulsory attendance and basic education requirements, it can be considered an educational institution for SSA purposes.

2. OPINION

You have requested our opinion as to whether the Apostolic Learning Center (ALC) located in Port Orchard, Washington, qualifies as an “educational institution” within the meaning of section 202(d)(7) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(7). It is our opinion that the school does qualify as an educational institution.

Background Facts

You received a “Student Statement Regarding School Attendance” form Randy A. A~, an ALC student. Mr. V~ reported that he was scheduled to attend this school 31 hours per week, from September 9, 2002 through May 29, 2003, when he expects to graduate. We confirmed that Mr. V~ is currently attending ALC.

We reviewed the materials you sent regarding ALC, including the Student Handbook and teacher recertification certificates, and also interviewed ALC supervisor (i.e., teacher), Dianne H~, by telephone.

ALC is a private, religious school, for Kindergarten through grade 12, located in Port Orchard, Washington. ALC first opened its doors for the 1983-1984 school year and has operated continuously since then. It is a member of the Association of Christian Schools International (ACI) and offers Bible-based Christian character teaching and education. The basic unit of the curriculum is the packet of accelerated Christian education (PACE). Each PACE includes instructional material, skill objectives, practice drills, review exercises and evaluation. A student moves to the next PACE in each subject only when mastery of the current PACE is demonstrated. This requirement helps to eliminate learning gaps as the student advances. PACEs are provided in word building, English, mathematics, science, social studies, Washington State history, and a variety of elective subjects, including typing, computer literacy, health, speech, economics, foreign languages, art and music. Physical education activities are required of all students. At the high school level, a prescribed course of study (i.e., vocational, general, college preparation, or honors) for each student is agreed upon through parent/teacher/student conferences. Every parent is expected to participate in these conferences. Students must complete a minimum of twenty-two credits for high school graduation. Twelve PACEs in a subject area equal one credit. Six PACEs equal one-half credit. Students are encouraged to try to complete at least six credits per year in order to complete the 22 credit minimum graduation requirements within four years.

All students take standardized achievement and aptitude tests on a regular basis; the California Achievement Test (every year) and the Test of Cognitive Skills (every other year). These tests are used as indicators of academic progress, as well as mental aptitude, and the students' performance in comparison to school children of similar age and academic placement throughout the United States. School is in session from 8:30 a.m. until 3:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, 180 days a year. There are currently 16 students enrolled at ALC, most of those at the high school level, with three students expecting to graduate this year. The school building is in a building maintained by the Apostolic Lighthouse Church, which is in the same location. Practice fire and earthquake evacuation drills are held during the school year. The Fire Marshall and other city and county safety inspectors visit the school each year. Any problems noted by the inspectors are promptly addressed; all necessary repairs are completed by church volunteers or paid for by the church community.

Ms. H~ indicated that ALC meets Washington State requirements for “approved” private schools, but that the school administrator, Pastor/President Lowell A. C~, ACI, objects to applying for approval because of fear of potential state interference, such as forcing the school to undertake any action abhorrent to the religious community that established and continues to operate the school. Ms. H~ advised that the Department of the Navy audited the school's academic program a few years ago and considers a diploma from ALC equivalent to a high school diploma. Ms. H~ further advised that ALC graduates have transferred to public school or enrolled in college programs, obtaining full credit for courses completed and/or the diploma conferred by ALC.

Discussion

Under the Social Security Act, a student is any eligible individual in full-time attendance (FTA) at an educational institution (EI). 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(1)(B); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.350(a)(5), 404.367 (2002); Program Operations Manual System (POMS) Section RS 00205.001. An EI is a school that provides 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); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367; POMS RS 00205.200. Unless there is some indication to the contrary, elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools located in the United States are considered to be EI's. 20 C.F.R. § 404.367; POMS RS 00205.200.

Prior opinions of the Office of the General Counsel, regarding the EI status of private schools in several states, conclude that a private school need not be affirmatively accredited by the state in which it is located in order to qualify as an EI. Rather, if the school appears to meet all the requirements of a state's compulsory education law, it can be found to provide an education recognized under state law. See, e.g., Memorandum from OGC Denver to Reg. Comm. Denver, Whether First Assembly Christian Academy Qualifies as an Educational Institution under the Laws of Wyoming, (September 30, 2002); Memorandum from OGC Chicago to Ass't. Reg. Comm. Chicago, Does Joan Treland and Associates Qualify as an Educational Institution Under Illinois State Law and Was Claimant a Full-Time Student (claimant particular information omitted), (June 4, 2002); Memorandum from OGC Seattle to Ass't. Reg. Comm. Seattle, Educational Institution Status of Columbia River Christian Academy, Kettle Falls, Washington (September 25, 2000); Memorandum from OGC Seattle to Ass't. Reg. Comm. Seattle, Educational Institution Status of Life Prep Academy, Spokane, Washington (February 25, 2000).

Washington's “Compulsory School Attendance and Admission” statute provides that all parents of “any child eight years of age and under eighteen years of age shall cause such child to attend the public school of the district in which the child resides . . . unless . . . the child is attending an approved private school . . . is receiving home-based instruction . . . [or] is attending an education center.” Wash. Rev. Code. Ann. §§ 28A.195, .205, .225, and .305 (emphasis added). The indication that a private school must be “approved” has been part of the compulsory school attendance statute since 1971, when the allowable alternative to attendance at a public school was changed from “private school” to “approved private and/or parochial school.” The amendment also defined “approved private and/or parochial schools” as “approved under regulations established by the state board of education pursuant to RCW 28A.04.120 (now RCW 28A.305.130) as now or hereafter amended.” See Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 28A.27.010, Sec. 2, Chapter 215, Laws of 1971 ex. sess. The adjective “approved” was dropped in the 1980 Supplement to the 1979 Revised Code of Washington at 28A.27.010, which was still in effect when ALC was founded in 1983. However, it was written back into the code in the 1986 supplement to the 1985 Revised Code of Washington at 28A.27.010 and is included in the current law. SeeWash. Rev. Code Ann. § 28A.225.

Private schools in Washington State may apply for “approved” status by completing an application form; submitting its school year calendar; daily schedule; overview of curricular offerings; copies of student, faculty and/or parent handbooks, if available, or a narrative statement describing the school's policies; a State Standards Certificate of Compliance form; Certificated and Noncertificated Personnel Reports; a Fire Inspection and Compliance form; and a Health and Safety Inspection and Compliance form. Wash. Admin. Code § 189-90-105. After a private school is approved, students attending are not considered “truant” under the compulsory school attendance law. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 28A.225.010(1)(a).

Although ALC is not an “approved” private school, it has operated continuously without state approval for nineteen years. Its curriculum tracks the basic education curriculum set out for private schools in Washington State, its teachers are required to participate in continuing education workshops and to be recertified as PACE instructors each year. Because ALC students are required to be in regular attendance at school, the major goal of the compulsory school attendance and admission law is accomplished. We had previously contacted the private school education section supervisor for the Washington State Department of Education in Olympia, Washington, who stated that truancy laws are not enforced against students in regular attendance at either “approved” or other private schools, such as ALC.

Thus, ALC appears to be in compliance with the spirit, but not the letter, of the compulsory education law. ALC's supervisor/teacher states that the school meets state compulsory attendance and basic education requirements. We have received no indication to the contrary.

Conclusion

We believe that ALC can be recognized as an educational institution, for purposes of the Title II student benefit claims currently being considered. Thus, with regard to the claim made by Mr. V~, we believe his attendance at ALC meets the requirement of full-time secondary school attendance at an educational institution. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367; POMS RS 00205.200.

Lucille G. M~
Regional Chief Counsel

By: Terrye E. S~
Assistant Regional Counsel

E. PR 03-096 Educational Institution Status of the Faith Baptist Academy

DATE: February 28, 2003

1. SYLLABUS

The State of Washington's “Compulsory School Attendance and Admission” statute requires parents of children eight years old and under age 18 to attend a public school, an approved private school, a home school, or an education center. The Faith Baptist Academy (FBA), although not an approved private school, provides the basic education curriculum specified for private schools in Washington State and requires its students to be in regular school attendance. Since FBA complies with State compulsory attendance and basic education requirements, it can be considered an educational institution for SSA purposes.

2. OPINION

You have requested our opinion as to whether the Faith Baptist Academy (FBA) located in Spokane, Washington, qualifies as an “educational institution” within the meaning of section 202(d)(7) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(7). It is our opinion that the school does qualify as an educational institution.

Background Facts

You provided a Report of Contact regarding a conversation with Rick D~, Assistant Pastor, Faith Baptist Church, and Principal, Faith Baptist Academy. You provided a printout of the “Academy Page” from the website for the church: http://www.fbcspokane.com/academy.htm .

We reviewed the materials you sent regarding FBA, looked at the website, and also spoke to Mr. D~ by telephone. FBA is a religious school ministry for Kindergarten through grade 12, located in Bremerton, Washington. FBA was founded in the Fall of 1985 and has operated continuously since then. FBA is governed by a local, autonomous church, the Faith Baptist Church. FBA declares itself to be a fundamental, soul-winning church which believes in the infallibility of the Bible and the historic, fundamental doctrines of the Baptist faith.

FBA offers Bible-based Christian character teaching and education. The basic unit of the school curriculum is the packet of accelerated Christian education (PACE). Each PACE includes instructional material, skill objectives, practice drills, review exercises and evaluation. A student moves to the next PACE in each subject only when mastery of the current PACE is demonstrated. This requirement helps to eliminate learning gaps as the student advances. PACEs are provided in word building, English, mathematics, science, social studies, Washington State history, and a variety of elective subjects, including typing, computer literacy, health, speech, economics, foreign languages, art and music. Physical education activities are required of all students. At the high school level, a prescribed course of study (i.e., vocational, general, college preparation, or honors) for each student is agreed upon through parent/teacher/student conferences. Every parent is expected to participate in these conferences. Students must complete a minimum of twenty-two credits for high school graduation. Twelve PACEs in a subject area equal one credit. Six PACEs equal one-half credit. Students are encouraged to try to complete at least sixty PACES each school year, but most students complete 80 PACEs each school year (in grades 7-12). A general high school diploma requires completion of 22 credits; a college preparatory diploma also requires foreign language credits; an honors diploma requires completion of 26 credits.

Sixty students are currently enrolled at FBA; forty at the Kindergarten through 6th grade levels and twenty at the 7th grade through 12th grade levels. Four students expect to graduate from high school this year. School is in session from 8:30 a.m. until 3:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, 180 days a year. The school building is maintained by the Faith Baptist Church, which is in the same location. Practice fire and earthquake evacuation drills are held during the school year. A private contractor tests and maintains the fire extinguisher equipment. The Spokane Regional Health District inspects school lighting and other safety equipment. Any problems noted by the inspectors are promptly addressed; all necessary repairs are completed by church volunteers or paid for by the church community.

Mr. D~ indicated that FBA makes every effort to and meets Washington State requirements for approved private schools. However, the school objects to applying for approval because of its beliefs that church and state have specific Biblical responsibilities; are equal and sovereign in their respective Biblically-assigned spheres of responsibility; and have no right to infringe upon each other.

Mr. D~ advised that the U.S. Army audited the school's academic program within the past year. Subsequently, the U.S. Department of the Defense issued a letter indicating that all branches of the United States military service consider a diploma from FBA equivalent to a state-issued high school diploma. Mr. D~ further advised that FBA graduates have transferred to public school or enrolled in college programs, obtaining full credit for regular and even for remedial courses completed at FBA and the diploma conferred by FBA.

Discussion

Under the Social Security Act, a student is any eligible individual in full-time attendance (FTA) at an educational institution (EI). 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(1)(B); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.350(a)(5), 404.367 (2002); Program Operations Manual System (POMS) Section RS 00205.001. An EI is a school that provides 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); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367; POMS RS 00205.200. Unless there is some indication to the contrary, elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools located in the United States are considered to be EI's. 20 C.F.R. § 404.367; POMS RS 00205.200.

Prior opinions of the Office of the General Counsel, regarding the EI status of private schools in several states, conclude that a private school need not be affirmatively accredited by the state in which it is located in order to qualify as an EI. Rather, if the school appears to meet all the requirements of a state's compulsory education law, it can be found to provide an education recognized under state law. See, e.g., Memorandum from OGC Seattle to Ass't. Reg. Comm. Seattle, Educational Institution Status of Apostolic Learning Center, Port Orchard, Washington (February 26, 2003); Memorandum from OGC Denver to Reg. Comm. Denver, Whether First Assembly Christian Academy Qualifies as an Educational Institution under the Laws of Wyoming, (September 30, 2002); Memorandum from OGC Chicago to Ass't. Reg. Comm. Chicago, Does Joan T~ and Associates Qualify as an Educational Institution Under Illinois State Law and Was Claimant a Full-Time Student (claimant particular information omitted), (June 4, 2002); Memorandum from OGC Seattle to Ass't. Reg. Comm. Seattle, Educational Institution Status of Columbia River Christian Academy, Kettle Falls, Washington (September 25, 2000); Memorandum from OGC Seattle to Ass't. Reg. Comm. Seattle, Educational Institution Status of Life Prep Academy, Spokane, Washington (February 25, 2000).

Washington's “Compulsory School Attendance and Admission” statute provides that all parents of “any child eight years of age and under eighteen years of age shall cause such child to attend the public school of the district in which the child resides . . . unless . . . the child is attending an approved private school . . . is receiving home-based instruction . . . [or] is attending an education center.” Wash. Rev. Code. Ann. §§ 28A.195, .205, .225, and .305 (emphasis added). The indication that a private school must be “approved” has been part of the compulsory school attendance statute since 1971, when the allowable alternative to attendance at a public school was changed from “private school” to “approved private and/or parochial school.” The amendment also defined “approved private and/or parochial schools” as “approved under regulations established by the state board of education pursuant to RCW 28A.04.120 (now RCW 28A.305.130) as now or hereafter amended.” See Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 28A.27.010, Sec. 2, Chapter 215, Laws of 1971 ex. sess. The adjective “approved” was dropped in the 1980 Supplement to the 1979 Revised Code of Washington at 28A.27.010, which was still in effect when FBA was founded in 1985. However, it was written back into the code in the 1986 supplement to the 1985 Revised Code of Washington at 28A.27.010 and is included in the current law. See Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 28A.225.

Private schools in Washington State may apply for “approved” status by completing an application form; submitting its school year calendar; daily schedule; overview of curricular offerings; copies of student, faculty and/or parent handbooks, if available, or a narrative statement describing the school's policies; a State Standards Certificate of Compliance form; Certificated and Noncertificated Personnel Reports; a Fire Inspection and Compliance form; and a Health and Safety Inspection and Compliance form. Wash. Admin. Code § 189-90-105. After a private school is approved, students attending are not considered “truant” under the compulsory school attendance law. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 28A.225.010(1)(a).

Although FBA is not an “approved” private school, it has operated continuously without state approval for seventeen years. Its curriculum tracks the basic education curriculum set out for private schools in Washington State, its teachers are college graduates and are required to participate in continuing education workshops and to be recertified as PACE instructors each year. Because FBA students are required to be in regular attendance at school, the major goal of the compulsory school attendance and admission law is accomplished. We had previously contacted the private school education section supervisor for the Washington State Department of Education in Olympia, Washington, who stated that truancy laws are not enforced against students in regular attendance at either “approved” or other private schools, such as FBA.

Thus, FBA appears to be in compliance with the spirit, but not the letter, of the compulsory education law. FBA's supervisor/teacher states that the school meets state compulsory attendance and basic education requirements. We have received no indication to the contrary.

Conclusion

We believe that FBA can be recognized as an educational institution, for purposes of Title II student benefit claims currently being considered. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367; POMS RS 00205.200.

Lucille G. M~
Regional Chief Counsel

By: Terrye E. S~
Assistant Regional Counsel


Footnotes:

[1]

. All references to 20 C.F.R. are to the 2017 version.

[2]

. All references to the Wash. Rev. Code Ann. Are to the 2017 version.

[3]

. All references to the Tenn. Code Ann. are to the 2017 version.


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/1507905053
PR 07905.053 - Washington - 06/21/2017
Batch run: 09/14/2017
Rev:06/21/2017