TN 33 (10-17)

PR 08005.047 Tennessee

A. PR 17-149 Eligibility for Childhood Insurance Benefits (CIBs) as a Student Based on Enrollment at Trinity Christian Academy and AliYah Academy

Date: September 5, 2017

1. Syllabus

Trinity Christian Academy and AliYah Academy are both recognized church-related schools under Tennessee law. However, while Trinity qualifies as a church-related school, AliYah does not meet the Tennessee statutory requirements for a church-related school home schooling program and therefore does not qualify as an educational institution.

2. Opinion

QUESTION

You asked whether Trinity Christian Academy (Trinity) and AliYah Academy (AliYah) are educational institutions for determining if claimant, a Tennessee resident, is eligible for child’s insurance benefits (CIB) as a full-time secondary school student obtaining home-schooling instruction through programs overseen by each school. You also asked whether the claimant was in full-time attendance (FTA).

OPINION

Trinity and AliYah are both recognized church-related schools under Tennessee law. However, while Trinity qualifies as a church-related school under Tennessee law, AliYah does not meet the Tennessee statutory requirements for a church-related school home schooling program and therefore does not qualify as an educational institution for Social Security purposes. The claimant was in FTA at both Trinity and AliYah.

BACKGROUND

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

Claimant completed two Student’s Statement Regarding School Attendance forms (Form SSA-1372). Claimant did not date the forms, but she apparently completed the forms after her expected graduation date, as she indicated that she was not currently in full-time attendance. Claimant reported that she had previously attended Trinity from August 2015 to May 2016. She indicated Trinity was a home school, which she attended twenty hours per week. She reported she attended AliYah from August 2016 until her expected graduation in May 2017. She indicated AliYah is a home school, which she attended twenty hours per week.

P~, a guidance counselor at Trinity, completed the Certification by School Official page of Form SSA-1372 and confirmed that the information Claimant provided was correct according to Trinity’s records. P~ indicated that Trinity’s course of study was at least thirteen weeks in duration and the school operated on a yearly basis. She also noted that Claimant was no longer enrolled through in Trinity.

According to its website, Trinity is located in Knoxville, Tennessee. See Trinity Christian Academy, http://tcaknoxville.org/ (last visited Aug. 23, 2017). Trinity has two programs, a homeschool co-op and an umbrella school. See id. Trinity describes the homeschool co-op as a parent-led program to “assist home schooling parents to teach, train, and equip their children” and that offers a variety of classes taught by pastors, parents, and others. Trinity Christian Academy, Homeschool Co-op, http://tcaknoxville.org/training-center/ (last visited Aug. 23, 2017). The homeschool co-op meets in North Knoxville on Mondays between the hours of 9 A.M. and 3 P.M. See id. The homeschool co-op appears to not require an immunization form. See Trinity Christian Academy, 2017-2018 Co-op Registration Information, http://tcaknoxville.org/training-center-registration/ (last visited Aug. 23, 2017).

Trinity also operates as an umbrella school, a category IV church related school as defined in Tennessee Code § 49-50-801. See Trinity Christian Academy, Umbrella School, http://tcaknoxville.org/umbrella-school/ (last visited Aug. 23, 2017). Trinity’s umbrella school webpage indicates that it holds a state membership in the Tennessee Association of Non-Public Academic Schools (TANAS). See id. The umbrella school is a ministry that offers support to those who have chosen home education; Trinity keeps track of the student’s records and reports to the county so that the parents do not have to do the reporting. See id. Trinity also provides standardized testing services for grades 2-12. See Trinity Christian Academy, Testing, http://tcaknoxville.org/testing/ (last visited Aug. 23, 2017). Although Trinity offers a diploma, parents are responsible for developing the course of study for their children. See Trinity Christian Academy, Umbrella Registration, http://tcaknoxville.org/umbrella-registration/ (last visited Aug. 23, 2017). Students must provide a current official immunization form to enroll in the Trinity umbrella-school program. See id.

The director of AliYah, K~, completed the Certification by School Official page of Form SSA-1372 and confirmed that the information Claimant provided was correct according to AliYah’s records. K~ also indicated AliYah’s course of study was at least thirteen weeks in duration and operated on a yearly basis.

AliYah’s website indicates that it is located in T~, Tennessee. See AliYah Academy, Contact Us, https://www.AliYahacademy.com/contact-us (last visited Aug. 23, 2017). AliYah’s homepage indicates that AliYah’s purpose is to support homeschooling and act as a liaison between parents and the State. See AliYah Academy, https://www.AliYahacademy.com/ (last visited Aug. 23, 2017). The website states that AliYah is recognized by the Tennessee Department of Education as a category IV church-related school and is a member of the Tennessee Alliance of Church Related Schools. See AliYah Academy, About AliYah Academy, https://www.AliYahacademy.com/about-us (last visited Aug. 23, 2017). The website also states that Trinity was “founded as an umbrella for homeschoolers.” Id. The website further explains that the parent/guardian is the teacher and “a satellite school of AliYah.” Id. The parent/guardian picks the courses, records the grades, and reports them to AliYah, which maintains those records indefinitely and provides official transcripts and diplomas to students at Aliyah. See id. AliYah, however, does not require any testing and does not require immunizations. See id.

In addition, the Tennessee Department of Education classifies both schools as category IV schools. See AliYah, https://k-12.education.tn.gov/sde/DetailSchool.asp?bu_id=7811; Trinity, https://k-12.education.tn.gov/sde/DetailSchool.asp?bu_id=6620.

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 eighteen 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); 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 Tennessee Law

Because Trinity and AliYah are both located in Tennessee, we look to Tennessee law to determine whether either or both are schools that provide elementary or secondary education. See Act § 202(d)(7)(C)(i); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a); POMS RS 00205.200.A. Under Tennessee law, every child between the age of six and seventeen must attend public or non-public school. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-6-3001(c)(1) (West 2017). Tennessee law recognizes a “non-public” school includes a church-related school (CRS), home school, or private school. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-6-3001(c)(3)(A) (West 2017). A CRS is a school operated by a denominational, parochial, or other bona fide church organization that meets the standards of accreditation or membership in various associations, including TANAS and the Tennessee Alliance of Church Related Schools. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 49-6-3001(c)(3)(A)(i), 49-50-801(a). Tennessee law states that a CRS must be conducted for the same term length as a public school. See Tenn. Code. Ann § 49-50-801(d). Tennessee recognizes two hybrids of home schools and CRSs. 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).

Trinity is a member of TANAS and AliYah is a member of the Tennessee Alliance of Church Related Schools. See Trinity Christian Academy, http://tcaknoxville.org/umbrella-school/; AliYah Academy, About AliYah Academy, https://www.AliYahacademy.com/about-us. In addition, the Tennessee Department of Education classifies both schools as category IV schools. See AliYah, https://k-12.education.tn.gov/sde/DetailSchool.asp?bu_id=7811; Trinity, https://k-12.education.tn.gov/sde/DetailSchool.asp?bu_id=6620. Category IV schools are schools that are “church related” as recognized by associations mentioned in Tennessee Code § 49-50-801. See Tenn. Dep’t of Ed., http://tn.gov/education/article/non-public-school-categories (last visited Aug. 24, 2017). Based on each school’s membership in an organization identified in the statute and their categorization as category IV schools by the State of Tennessee, both Trinity and AliYah are CRSs under Tennessee law.

To qualify for CIB based on instruction at home, Claimant’s instruction had to be in accordance with Tennessee’s home school law. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a)(1); POMS RS 205.275B. As noted above, Tennessee recognizes two hybrids of home schools and CRSs: home schools affiliated with CRSs, and CRSs operating at home. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-6-3050(a)(1)-(3); POMS PR 07905.047A, PR 17-040 (Feb. 7, 2017). Because both Trinity and AliYah’s umbrella programs are recognized CRSs and Claimant’s instruction occurred at home, both schools’ umbrella program appear to be a CRS operating at home. Tennessee allows for broad discretion in a CRS operating at home. CRSs operating at home are exempt from having to file notices of intent with local school directors, maintaining attendance records, requiring minimum parent/teacher education levels, or meeting standardized testing requirements. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-96-3050(a)(3), (b). CRSs under Tennessee law are also exempt from the State’s curriculum regulation. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-50-801(b); Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 0520-07-02-.01(1)(d) (West 2017). Tennessee only requires such schools to ensure their students are vaccinated and report the names, ages, and addresses of their students to the superintendent of the public school system in which the student resides. See Tenn. Comp. R & Regs. 0520-07-02-.05(2)(d)-(e) (West 2017).

Trinity complies with the requirements to ensure vaccination of the students and report the names, ages, and addresses of the students to the superintendent of the public school system. AliYah, however, does not require students to be vaccinated; therefore, AliYah does not comply with Tennessee law on CRSs operating at home. See AliYah Academy, About AliYah Academy, https://www.AliYahacademy.com/about-us. Therefore, while attendance at Trinity would qualify a CRS operating at home in accordance with Tennessee home school law for agency purposes, attendance at AliYah would not qualify as such due to its lack of a vaccination compliance.

Full-Time Attendance

You also asked whether Claimant is in FTA. 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. Claimant reported on the Form SSA-1372 forms she completed that she attended classes through Trinity for twenty hours a week. K~, the director of Trinity, confirmed the information provided by Claimant and reported that Trinity’s course of study was at least thirteen weeks in duration. Nothing indicates that Claimant took correspondence courses. Thus, the information provided indicates Claimant’s instruction while affiliated with Trinity met the Federal FTA standards. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b), (c); POMS RS 00205.300C. The evidence also indicates Claimant’s instruction through Trinity met Tennessee attendance requirements because K~ certified that Claimant’s attendance at Trinity was full-time under Trinity’s standards. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b); POMS RS 00205.300.B; POMS RS 00205.350.C.1.

Even if we presume that Claimant attended AliYah in FTA, the finding is irrelevant because of our analysis above finding AliYah to not meet all of Tennessee’s requirements for a CRS operating home, namely the requirement to ensure vaccination. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b); POMS RS 00205.275.B.

CONCLUSION

Trinity is an educational institution under Tennessee law because it is a CRS in which Claimant’s parent(s) taught her at home under the auspices of the CRS. AliYah, however, is not an educational institution under Tennessee law because it does not meet Tennessee’s requirements for a CRS operating home, namely the requirement to ensure vaccination of the students. Claimant’s instruction through Trinity met both federal and state standards for FTA, and whether Claimant’s attendance at AliYah was FTA is not necessary to determine because the school does not qualify as an educational institution. Thus, the information provided establishes Claimant was a full-time secondary school student for determining her eligibility for CIB for the period from August 2015 through May 2016, but not thereafter.

B. PR 07-143 Requirements for Church Affiliated Home School, Tennessee Claimant J~ and Wage Earner R~

DATE: May 25, 2007

1. SYLLABUS

Tennessee recognizes home schooling, church-related private schools, and home schools affiliated with church-related schools. Each of these options has specific requirements.

Home Schooling

A home school parent/teacher must meet the attendance, testing, and credential requirements in Tenn. Stat. § 49-6-3050(b).

He/she must:

Give notice to the local school director by August 1 (or by September 1 with payment of a penalty) of his/her intent to conduct a home school and include the name, number, age, and grade level of the child, the location of the school, the curriculum, proposed hours of instruction, and the qualifications of the parent/teacher;

Maintain attendance records and submit them to the director of schools at the end of each school year;

Instruct at least four hours per day for the same number of instructional days required by state law for public schools;

Have a high school diploma or GED to conduct classes in kindergarten through grade 8 or have a baccalaureate degree or exemption if conducting classes in grades 9 through 12;

Comply with administration of approved standardized tests to students in grades five, seven, and nine;

Consult with the director of schools if the student falls three to six months behind the home school student's appropriate grade level, based on the results of the standardized tests;

Consult with a teacher licensed by the state board of education if the student falls six to nine months behind the appropriate grade level and, with the teacher, design a remedial course for the child;

Enroll the student in a public, private, or church-related school, if required by the local director of schools, if the student falls more than a year behind the appropriate grade level;

Notify the local director of schools in writing whether he/she is conducting a college preparatory or general course of study to a student in grades nine through twelve. If the course is general, it must include courses required by the state for graduation from public high schools. If the course is college preparatory, it must include areas of study required for admission into public four-year colleges operated by the state; and

Submit proof of vaccination and other required health services or examinations to the local director of schools.

Church-Related Private School

A church-related private school must:

Be accredited by or a member of one of the organizations listed in Tenn. Stat. § 49-6-3050(b): 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; or a school associated with Accelerated Christian Education, Inc.;

Supervise the home school; and

Administer standardized achievement tests at the same time the tests are given in regular day school.

Home Schools Affiliated with Church-Related Schools

In addition to the requirements for a church-related private school, a home school affiliated with a church-related private school must also meet the following requirements:

The parent or teacher of grade 9-12 must have at least a high school diploma or generalized educational development (GED) certificate;

The student must be administered an annual standardized achievement test or the Sanders Model of value-added assessment, whichever the local education association (LEA) uses and the state board of education approves;

The student must be registered with the LEA the student would attend if not in the home school; and

A student who fails for two consecutive years to meet or surpass the average achievement level in the Sanders Model or other standardized achievement test in use in the LEA must be enrolled in the appropriate grade level of the LEA or church-related school.The parent or teacher must submit evidence of compliance with one of these options. The student must also meet federal standards for full-time attendance and all other requirements for the payment of benefits.

2. OPINION

QUESTION

In considering this claim for Child's benefits, you asked whether the church-related home school Jeremy W~ (Claimant) attends meets the requirements of Tennessee law.

ANSWER

The materials submitted by Claimant are not adequate to establish that his school meets Tennessee requirements. Unless and until he furnishes the required documentation, we cannot conclude that Claimant qualifies as a full-time elementary or secondary school student.

BACKGROUND

According to the materials and information we received, Claimant receives benefits as a non-disabled child of Rickey W~, deceased. Claimant will turn 18 on June 13, 2007, and desires to continue benefits as a full-time student. He submitted Form SSA-1372-BK, "Student's Statement Regarding School Attendance," in which he states that he attends Faith Missionary Academy as a Satellite High School Home Schooler, attending over 20 hours per week. The director of Faith Missionary Academy, Pastor S. D. S~, stated upon phone inquiry that the school has a campus, and some students are home-schooled with a curriculum provided by the school. Pastor S~ indicated the Academy does follow-ups with the home schoolers once per month and the course of study exceeds 13 weeks.

DISCUSSION

To qualify for child's benefits on the earnings record of an insured person who has died, a claimant 18 years or older who is not disabled must be a full-time elementary or secondary school student. See Social Security Act (Act) § 202(d)(1)(F); 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(1)(F); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.350(a)(5), 404.367 (2007). An individual is a full time elementary or secondary school student if he is "instructed in elementary or secondary school at home in accordance with a home school law of the State or other jurisdiction in which [the Claimant] reside[s]." 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a)(1) (2007.) Claimant resides in Tennessee; therefore, we look to Tennessee law to determine if his schooling under the auspices of Faith Missionary Academy qualifies.

Tennessee allows home schooling, church-related private schools, and also a hybrid relevant to this case, home schools affiliated with church-related schools. See TENN. STAT. § 49-6-3050(a)(2)(B) (2007). Generally, a home school has extensive attendance, testing, and credential requirements. See TENN. STAT. § 49-6-3050(b) (2007). However, a home school affiliated with a church-related school has a shorter and less stringent list of requirements, provided that the church-related school:

(1) is accredited by or a member of one of the organizations listed in the statute defining church-related schools at TENN. STAT. § 49-50-801;

(2) supervises the home school;

(3) administers standardized achievement tests at the same time such tests are given in the regular day school.

See TENN. STAT. § 49-6-3050(a)(2)(A) (2007). In addition to these requirements for the supervising school, the satellite home school must meet the following requirements:

(1) the grade 9-12 parent/teacher must possess at least a high school diploma or generalized educational development certificate (GED);

(2) the student shall be administered an annual standardized achievement test or the Sanders Model of value-added assessment, whichever is use in the LEA (local education agency; i.e., local school board) and sanctioned by the state board of education;

(3) the student must be registered with the LEA the student would otherwise attend;

(4) if the student fails, for two consecutive years, to meet or surpass the average level of achievement in the Sanders Model of value-added assessment or other standardized achievement test in use in the LEA, the child must be enrolled in the appropriate grade level of the LEA or church-related school.

See TENN. STAT. § 49-6-3050(a)(2)(B, C) (2007).

Claimant's parent/teacher has the burden to show that these requirements are met before SSA can approve the home school as an educational institution: "The child's home school instructor must submit evidence that State requirements for home schooling are met." POMS RS 00205.275C. Claimant's instructor has not documented these seven requirements. In regard to the first, Pastor S~ stated via telephone that Faith Missionary Academy is a member of TANAS, the Tennessee Association of Non-Public Academic Schools, and TANAS is one of the accrediting agencies listed in the statute for church-related home schools. See TENN. STAT. § 49-50-801(a) (2007). However, TANAS has an extensive list of requirements for membership or accreditation. See <http://www.tanasonline.org>, Downloadable Documents, Category IV Manual p. 18. We do not know whether Faith Missionary Academy is a current member in good standing, and the safe course would be to have the parent/instructor submit a copy of Faith Missionary Academy's current certification from TANAS.

For these reasons, we recommend that you deny the claim unless and until Claimant or the parent/teacher documents compliance with the seven state requirements listed above.

Mary A. S~
Regional Chief Counsel
By: Rollin M~
Assistant Regional Counsel


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/1508005047
PR 08005.047 - Tennessee - 10/12/2017
Batch run: 10/12/2017
Rev:10/12/2017