TN 9 (02-15)

PR 08105.016 Illinois

A. PR 15-062 B~ / Magic Johnson Bridgescape High School (IL) - Reply

DATE: December 31, 2014

1. SYLLABUS

Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy (Bridgescape) operates as an Alternative Learning Opportunity Program for secondary education in compliance with Illinois law, and it is, therefore, an educational institution (EI) for SSA purposes. This opinion applies to the Lawndale, Roseland, Humboldt Park, and Englewood Bridgescape Chicagoland campuses. Because a program’s EI status depends on relevant state law, DO NOT apply this opinion to Bridgescape programs in other states.

The student must also meet Federal and State standards for full-time attendance and all other requirements for payment of benefits.

2. OPINION

SUMMARY

You asked whether Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy (“Bridgescape”) [1] based in the State of Illinois, may be considered an educational institution (EI) for purposes of awarding student benefits. For the reasons discussed below, we conclude that Bridgescape Chicago qualifies as an EI. 

BACKGROUND

Claimant B~ is seeking child’s insurance benefits due to her reported status as a full-time student at Bridgescape Chicago. 

The agency uses Form SSA-1372-BK as the primary means for determining whether a child is a full-time student at a qualifying educational institution. POMS RS 00205.735. The claimant submitted a SSA-1372-BK dated May 14, 2014, indicating that she was scheduled to attend Bridgescape Chicago (25 hours per week) for the 2014-2015 academic year; she also indicated that she expected to graduate in June 2015.   The SSA 1372-BK was certified by the Bridgescape Principal on May 14, 2014. The Bridgescape Principal certified that the information the claimant had provided on the SSA 1372-BK was correct, and that the school’s course of study was at least 13 weeks in duration.

According to the Illinois State Board of Education, Bridgescape is recognized by the State of Illinois as a provider of school education for grades 9-12. [2]

DISCUSSION

The Social Security Act (Act) provides for the payment of child insurance benefits to certain children of individuals who are entitled to old-age or disability insurance benefits or who died as fully or currently insured individuals. See Section 202(d)(1) of Act. As relevant here, to qualify for student benefits, a claimant must be at least 18 years old but under age 19 and a full-time elementary or secondary school student. See Section 202(d)(1)(B) of the Act; 20 C.F.R. §404.350(1)(5).  If the claimant is not under a disability, benefits terminate when she turns 19 years old, regardless of her educational status. See Section 202(d)(1)(F)(ii) of the Act.

“Elementary or secondary school” is defined as “a school which provides elementary or secondary education, respectively, as determined under the law of the State or other jurisdiction in which it is located.” Section 202(d)(7)(C)(i) of the Act; see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a). The POMS refers to such a school as an “educational institution” (EI). See POMS RS 00205.200A. Under the POMS, it is generally assumed that American public schools are EIs, absent evidence to the contrary; a non-public school cannot be assumed to be an EI. See POMS RS 00205.250B. 

The Act defines “full-time elementary or secondary school student” as an individual who is in full-time attendance at an elementary or secondary school, as determined by the Commissioner of Social Security by regulation. See Section 202(d)(7)(a) of the Act; see also 20 C.F.R. §404.367.

Bridgescape Chicago is an Educational Institution

To be considered an educational institution for purposes of receiving child insurance benefits, a school must provide elementary or secondary school education as determined under the law of the state or other jurisdiction in which it is located. See Section 202(d)(7)(C)(i) of the Act; 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a); POMS RS 00205.200A. Public schools are assumed to be EIs under POMS RS 00205.250, unless there is evidence to the contrary.

The Illinois School Code allows for the establishment of Alternative Learning Opportunity Programs by local school districts. 105 ILCS § 5/13B. Pursuant to § 13B-10 of the School Code, Alternative Learning Opportunity Programs “are intended to provide students at risk of academic failure with the education and support services needed to meet Illinois Learning Standards and to complete their education in an orderly, safe, and secure learning environment.” 105 ILCS § 5/13B-10. Additionally, all staff employed by an Alternative Learning Opportunity Program must be certified by the State of Illinois. 105 ILCS § 5/13B-65; 23 IL Admin. Code § 240.30(f).

According to its website, Bridgescape is a blended learning program for dropout prevention and recovery, with a primary goal of achieving a high school diploma. [3]

A school district may contract with other entities, including non-profit or for-profit education providers, to establish Alternative Learning Opportunity Programs within the public school system. 105 ILCS § 5/13B-20.10; see 23 IL Administrative Code § 240.10 (a school district may provide instructional services through a subcontractor if the entity is recognized by the State Board of Education). Bridgescape Program Director J~ confirmed that Bridgescape Chicago contracts with the Chicago Public School System to provide an Alternative Learning Opportunity Program based out of four Chicagoland campuses. And as noted above, Bridgescape Chicago is recognized by the Illinois State Board of Education, and is included in the state’s Directory of Educational Entities. [4]

Finally, pursuant to 105 ILCS § 13B-45, an Alternative Learning Opportunities Program is required to provide students with a minimum of 174 days of actual attendance and 5 daily hours as required for a students at Illinois public schools. 105 ILCS §§ 5/13B-45, 5/10-19, 5/18-8.05(F). Bridgestone Program Director J~ confirmed that Bridgescape academic year calendar mirrors that of the Chicago Public School system. Both the Bridgescape website and Program Director J~ confirmed that the Bridgescape program includes 4 hours of daily classroom time. However, Program Director J~ advised that students are also required to complete a minimum of one hour of independent work daily in addition to the four hours of classroom time. This combination of 4 hours of classwork and 1 hour of independent work satisfies the daily attendance requirements of an Alternative Learning Opportunity Program under 105 ILCS § 5/13B-45.

Based on the foregoing, we conclude that Bridgescape qualifies as an EI pursuant to POMS RS 00205.250(B).  Information received from Bridgescape, the Illinois State Board of Education, as well as publicly available information, demonstrates that Bridgescape operates as an Alternative Learning Opportunity Program in compliance with Illinois law, and accordingly, that it meets the requirements of an EI for purposes of awarding child insurance benefits. [5]

CONCLUSION

For the reasons discussed above, Bridgescape Chicago qualifies as an Educational Institution, as sufficient evidence indicates that it is an institution that provides an education “as determined under the law of the State” of Illinois. In addition, the claimant meets the requirements for full-time attendance.

Sincerely,

Kathryn Caldwell
Acting Regional Chief Counsel, Region V

By: __________________________
Tiffani Jake
Assistant Regional Counsel


Footnotes:

[1]

Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy operates in multiple states across the country. Because the determination of whether a program qualifies as an educational institution is dependent on the relevant state law, this opinion should not be construed as applicable to Bridgescape programs located in other states. Further, the current Illinois Bridgescape program operates only in the Chicagoland area, under contract with the Chicago Public School system. Bridgescape Program Director J~ advised that each of the four Chicagoland campuses operate under the same contract with the Chicago Public School system. Therefore, this opinion  is applicable to the following Bridgescape Chicagoland campuses: Lawndale; Roseland; Humboldt Park; and Englewood.

[2]

See Illinois State Board of Education, Directory of Educational Entities (available at: http://www.isbe.net/research/htmls/directories.htm (last accessed October 15, 2014)).

[3]

See http://magicjohnsonbridgescape.com/sites/all/themes/bridgescape/media/MJEB_Broch_Folder_single.pdf (last accessed December 31, 2014). 

In addition, Bridgescape Program Director J~ confirmed that Bridgescape’s curriculum and academic assessment criteria parallel that of the Chicago Public School system, and that students receive a traditional Illinois high school diploma upon completion of the program. See 105 ILCS § 5/13B-45. Further, Bridgescape employs staff who meet Illinois certification requirements. See 105 ILCS § 5/13B-65. Thus, Bridgescape appears to meet the intent of an Alternative Learning Opportunity Program.

[4]

See Illinois State Board of Education, Directory of Educational Entities (available at: http://www.isbe.net/research/htmls/directories.htm (last accessed December 31, 2014)).

[5]

You did not ask whether the claimant meets the attendance requirements. See 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(1)(B) (requiring “full-time” attendance). However, in addition to attending a qualifying educational institution, a student must meet both state and federal attendance requirements. POMS RS 00205.300 (A). Federal regulations provide at 20 C.F.R. §404.367 that a student attends full-time if his or her scheduled attendance is at least 20 hours per week in at least a 13-week course, barring certain exceptions. 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b), (c); see also  POMS RS 00205.300. State attendance requirements are met if a student is considered full-time based on the school’s standards and practices. POMS RS 000205.300(B). On the Form SSA-1372-BK, Program Director T~ certified that the claimant was scheduled to attend Bridgescape for 25 hours per week, with a course of study of at least 13 weeks. Further, Bridgescape enrollment personnel confirmed on October 10, 2014 that the claimant was enrolled in a full-time program. Accordingly, we find that the claimant meets the requirements for “full-time” attendance under both the Federal and State standards. 


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http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/1508105016
PR 08105.016 - Illinois - 02/12/2015
Batch run: 08/03/2015
Rev:02/12/2015