TN 11 (05-15)

PR 08105.012 Georgia

A. PR 15-110 Eligibility for Child’s Insurance Benefits as a Full-Time Elementary or Secondary School Student Based on Enrollment in Kentucky Downs Day School

DATE: April 10, 2015 

1. SYLLABUS

The claimant’s participation in Kentucky Downs Day School (KDDS) does not appear to meet the requirements for independent study, which is a method of alternative secondary education that some States use. Local education agencies (e.g., high schools or school districts) run independent study programs. No evidence suggests that a local school or school district runs KDDS, and it appears that the claimant’s participation in KDDS does not meet the independent study requirements.

2. OPINION

QUESTION

For determining a claimant’s eligibility for child’s insurance benefits (CIB) as a full-time student, you asked whether Kentucky Downs Day School (KDDS), an entity located in Georgia, is an educational institution or if the claimant’s instruction through KDDS qualifies as home schooling under Georgia law. You also asked if the claimant is in full-time attendance based on her instruction through KDDS.

OPINION

KDDS is not an educational institution under Georgia law and the claimant is not a home-school student in accordance with Georgia law. The claimant also does not meet Georgia or Federal standards for full-time attendance.

BACKGROUND

According to the information provided, J~(Claimant) received CIB on the earnings record of decedent H~, the number holder. Claimant turned eighteen years of age in September 2014 and her CIB terminated. In February 2015, Claimant completed a Student’s Statement Regarding School Attendance, wherein she indicated she lives in Macon, Georgia, and attends an educational program full time at or through KDDS, also located in Macon. Claimant indicated KDDS is a home school program.  Claimant reported the school year at KDDS began on August 1, 2014, and ends on May 16, 2015. Claimant also reported she attends KDDS thirty-five to forty hours per week and expects to graduate from high school in May 2015.  Claimant indicated she is not married or disabled and no employer pays her to attend school. L~, Ph.D., administrator and teacher at KDDS, completed and signed the Certification of School Official and indicated the information Claimant provided was correct. L~ also indicated KDDS’s course of study lasts at least thirteen weeks.

In August 2014, Claimant’s mother completed and signed a Declaration of Intent to Utilize a Home Study Program (Home Study DOI). In an undated letter to the Social Security Administration (SSA), Claimant’s mother stated that when she first removed Claimant from public school, the Bibb County School District approved KDDS for use as a home school program. Claimant’s mother noted that Bibb County School District “no longer has a home school office”; so, she is unable to obtain answers from the school district regarding Claimant’s home schooling.

On November 20, 2014, SSA contacted Georgia Department of Education (DOE) Program Manager A~ to determine whether the Georgia DOE had any record of Claimant’s Home Study DOI.  A~ responded that neither Claimant nor her mother were on file with the Georgia DOE.

Claimant’s transcript from KDDS shows she completed classes in English, French, mathematics, history, science, and various other subjects at the ninth to eleventh grade levels, and is scheduled to complete classes in the same basic subjects at the twelfth grade level in the 2014-2015 school year.  A copy of the KDDS College Preparatory Graduation Requirements (curriculum) indicates that the curriculum was adapted from Mount de Sales Academy for use with Mount de Sales Southern Association of Colleges & Secondary Schools (SACS) and Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS) Accredited Curriculum.1  The curriculum consists of a total of twenty-four credit hours, with units for English, mathematics, science, social studies, a foreign language, and various other subjects.  The curriculum gives summaries of the material covered in the individual classes in each subject area. Claimant also submitted a document showing that L~ received a graduate degree in science education.

Claimant’s mother’s undated letter to SSA indicates Claimant meets with L~ at her house five hours per day, Monday through Thursday, and does assignments online on Fridays.  A Home Study Program Monthly Attendance Report dated September 2014 indicates Claimant attended home school eight days in August 2014.

A score-sheet from ACT Student Web Services shows Claimant took the ACT test in June 2014.

DISCUSSION

To be eligible for CIB on the earnings record of an individual who dies fully or currently insured, an individual who is eighteen years 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 (2014); 2 Program Operations Manual System (POMS) RS 00205.001.A. 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 00205.001.A; POMS RS 00205.200.A. An individual also may qualify as an elementary or secondary school student if he or she receives instruction in elementary or secondary education at home under the home school law of the State or other jurisdiction where the individual resides. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a)(1); POMS RS 00205.275.A.  Additionally, an individual may be considered an elementary or secondary school student if he or she is in an independent study program administered by the local school or school district in accordance with the law of the State or jurisdiction in which he or she resides. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a)(2); POMS RS 00205.285.An individual also must attend school full time to qualify as a “full-time elementary or secondary school student.” See Act § 202(d)(7)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b), (c); POMS RS 00205.001.A; POMS RS 00205.300.A. An individual attends full time if he or she is attending an educational institution and meets both State and Federal standards for full-time attendance. See Act § 202(d)(7)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a), (c); POMS RS 00205.295.B; POMS RS 00205.300.A.  Similarly, an individual attending an on-line school may be considered a full time student if the on-line school is 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 full-time attendance. See POMS RS 00205.295.B; POMS RS 00205.300.A.  An individual meets the State standards of full-time attendance if a qualifying educational institution considers the individual to be a full-time student based on the institution’s standards and practices. See Act § 202(d)(7)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b); POMS RS 00205.300.B; POMS RS 00205.350.C.1. An individual meets the Federal standards if he or she is scheduled to attend school at the rate of at least twenty hours per week, enrolled in a noncorrespondence course, and enrolled in a course of study lasting at least thirteen weeks. See Act § 202(d)(7)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b), (c); POMS RS 00205.300.C. A home schooled individual must meet the Federal standards for full-time attendance and meet the home-school requirements of the State in which the home school is located. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b); POMS RS 00205.275.B. Attendance for a student in an independent study program must also meet the Federal full-time attendance requirements, which one accomplishes by combining the number of hours at a school facility with the agreed upon number of hours in independent study. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(c); POMS RS 00205.285.B.

Educational Institution under Georgia Law

Because KDDS is located in Macon, Georgia, we look to Georgia law to determine whether KDDS is a school that provides elementary or secondary education. See Act § 202(d)(7)(C)(i); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a); POMS RS 00205.200.A. Georgia law mandates attendance in a public school, private school, or home study program for children between their sixth and sixteenth birthdays. See Ga. Code. Ann. § 20-2-690.1 (West 2015).3 The Bibb County School District’s website does not list KDDS as a public school. See http://www.bcsdk12.net/cms/lib01/GA01000598/Centricity/Domain/1/20142015%20School%20District%20Directory%20w%20Alternatives.pdf (last visited Mar. 31, 2015). Thus, we must determine whether KDDS is a private school. 4

The evidence does not show that KDDS is a private school. Under Georgia law, a “private school” is an institution that meets the following requirements: 

  1. its primary purpose is to provide education;

  2. it is privately controlled and operates on a continuing basis;

  3. it provides instruction for the equivalent of 180 days of education with each school day consisting of at least 4 and 1/2 hours;

  4. it provides a basic educational program, which includes reading, language arts, mathematics, social studies, and science;

  5. it meets certain requirements to report information to each local public school district that has residents enrolled, including a list of the name, age, and residence of each enrollee; and

  6. (6) any building used by the institution for private school purposes meets all health and safety standards. 

See Ga. Code. Ann. § 20-2-690(b). 

Based on the evidence, it appears KDDS may meet the requirements regarding length of instruction and basic educational content. See Ga. Code. Ann. § 20-2-690(b)(3), (b)(4). However, the evidence does not show whether KDDS meets any of the other requirements to be a private school under Georgia law. In particular, the evidence does not show whether KDDS (1) reports enrollee information to the local public school district or (2) uses a building that meets all health and safety standards. See Ga. Code. Ann. § 20-2-690(b)(5), (b)(6).  Accordingly, the evidence does not establish that KDDS is an educational institution for determining whether Claimant is a full-time elementary or secondary school student. See Act § 202(d)(7)(A), (d)(7)(C); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a); POMS RS 00205.001.A; POMS RS 00205.200.A.

Home Study Program and Independent Study under Georgia Law

Because Claimant is a resident of Georgia, we consider whether she is a home school student under Georgia law. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a)(1); POMS RS 00205.275.B. Under Georgia law, parents or guardians may teach their children in a home study program meeting the following requirements: 

  1. (1) the parent, parents, or guardian must submit a DOI to use a home study program to the DOE within 30 days after the establishment of a home study program and by September 1 annually thereafter;

  2. (2) the DOI must include certain enrollment and address information;

  3. (3) the parent or guardian providing instruction must possess at least a high school diploma or general educational development diploma (GED), although the parent or guardian may employ a tutor who holds a high school diploma or GED to provide instruction;

  4. (4) the home study program must provide a basic academic educational program, defined to include reading, language arts, mathematics, social studies, and science;

  5. (5) the home study program must provide instruction each 12 months equivalent to 180 school days per year with each school day consisting of at least 4 and 1/2 school hours, unless the child is physically unable to comply;

  6. (6) students must be subject to an appropriate nationally standardized testing program administered in consultation with a person trained to administer such tests at least every 3 years beginning in third grade; and

  7. (7) the home study program instructor must write an annual progress report. 

Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-690(c). 

The child’s parent or guardian has authority to execute any document required by law, rule, regulation, or policy to evidence the enrollment of a child in a home study program, the student’s full-time or part-time status, the student’s grades, or any other required educational information. Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-690(c)(6). 5 Claimant does not qualify as a home school student under Georgia law because her mother did not submit a Home Study DOI to the Georgia DOE. 6 See Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-690(c)(1). In November 2014, SSA asked Georgia DOE’s Home Study Program Manager A~ whether the Georgia DOE had a record of Claimant’s Home Study DOI. A~ responded that the Georgia DOE did not have a record of Claimant or her mother in its files. Because Claimant’s mother has not submitted a Home Study DOI to the Georgia DOE, Claimant is not instructed in elementary or secondary education at home in accordance with Georgia law for purposes of CIB. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a)(1); POMS RS 00205.275.B.Claimant’s instruction through KDDS otherwise appears to satisfy the requirements of a home study program under Georgia law. See Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-690(c). The evidence indicates L~ has a graduate degree in science education, and is therefore qualified to tutor Claimant. See Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-690(c)(3). According to KDDS’s curriculum and Claimant’s transcript, Claimant receives instruction in a basic academic education, including reading, language arts, mathematics, social studies, and science. See Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-690(c)(4).  Claimant reported, and L~ confirmed, that KDDS’s school year began on August 1, 2014, and ends on May 16, 2015, therefore lasting 198 days excluding weekends and public holidays, which is 18 days more than the statutory requirement. See Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-690(c)(5). Additionally, Claimant’s mother indicates Claimant attends school at L~’s house Monday to Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., with assignments online on Fridays, and Claimant indicates she is scheduled to attend between thirty-five and forty hours per week at school.  Thus, Claimant attends at least four and one-half hours of school per school day. See Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-690(c)(5).  While it is unclear whether Claimant’s June 2014 taking of the ACT test satisfies the requirement of triennial standardized testing, she may still be subjected to appropriate testing before the end of her twelfth grade year.7 See Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-690(c)(7). Finally, Claimant’s transcript indicates L~ writes an annual assessment of Claimant’s academic progress in each of her areas of study. See Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-690(c)(8). Regardless, as discussed, Claimant is not a home school student under Georgia law because her mother did not submit a Home Study DOI to the Georgia DOE.

Moreover, Claimant’s participation in KDDS does 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 KDDS. As such, Claimant’s participation in KDDS does not seem to satisfy the independent study requirements.

Finally, because Claimant’s study through KDDS does not qualify as either an educational institution or a home study program under Georgia law, Claimant does not satisfy the requirements for full-time attendance. See Act § 202(d)(7)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a), (c); POMS RS 00205.295.B; POMS RS 00205.300.A.

CONCLUSION

Claimant has not demonstrated KDDS is an educational institution under Georgia law. Additionally, Claimant has not demonstrated that she is participating in a home study program or independent study program in compliance with Georgia law. Thus, she is not a full-time elementary or secondary school student based on her instruction through KDDS. 

Sincerely ,
Mary Ann Sloan

Regional Chief Counsel

By: _____________________

Owen Keegan
Assistant Regional Counsel


Footnotes:

[1]

Mount de Sales Academy is a private Catholic secondary school in Macon, Georgia. See Mount de Sales, http://www.mountdesales.net/ (last visited Mar. 31, 2015).

[2]

All references to 20 C.F.R. are to the 2014 version.

[3]

All references to the Georgia Code are to the West 2015 version.  Georgia refers to a home school program as a “home study program.”  Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-690(a).

[4]

The Georgia DOE website does not include KDDS in its list of Georgia private schools. See https://app3.doe.k12.ga.us/ows-bin/owa/psc_pack_mainmenu.pvsch_list_public?p_sort=1 (last visited Mar. 30, 2015).  However, the website does not indicate whether its list of private schools is exhaustive. See Georgia DOE, Schools and Districts, http://www.gadoe.org/External-Affairs-and-Policy/AskDOE/Pages/Schools-and-Districts.aspx (last visited Mar. 30, 2015).

[5]

The Georgia Legislature amended subsection (6) of Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-690(c), effective July 2013, to grant authority to a parent or guardian to execute any document required by law to evidence a child’s enrollment and attendance in a home study program. See 2013 Ga. Laws 335. Prior to the amendment, the statute required submission of attend