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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.