TN 49 (07-16)

PR 08205.012 Georgia

A. PR 16-126 Status of Graduation Achievement Charter High School as an Educational Institution in Georgia

Date: April 28, 2016

1. Syllabus

Graduation Achievement Charter High School (GACHS) is an educational institution under Georgia law.  It was renamed on August 29, 2015 from Provost Academy Georgia, the name indicated in a previous published precedent (See POMS PR 08205.012 PR 13-034, Dec. 18, 2012).  The institution remains in full force and effect.

2. Opinion

QUESTION

You asked whether Graduation Achievement Charter High School (GACHS), an entity located in Georgia, is an educational institution. You also asked whether the beneficiary, a Georgia resident, is in full-time attendance at GACHS for determining if she continues to be eligible for child’s insurance benefits (CIB) as a full-time student.

OPINION

GACHS is an educational institution offering secondary education under Georgia law for determining the beneficiary’s continuing eligibility for CIB. The beneficiary also is in full-time attendance at GACHS for determining if she continues to be eligible for CIB as a full-time secondary school student.

BACKGROUND

W~ (Beneficiary) reached eighteen years of age in February 2016. Beneficiary is receiving CIB on the earnings record of her father, W2~. In a Student Statement Regarding School Attendance, Form SSA-1372, Beneficiary reported she is a full-time student at GACHS. Beneficiary reported she was in a high school program and scheduled to attend 30 hours a week. Beneficiary stated her school year began in August 2015 and ends in June 2016 and that she expects to graduate in June 2018. J~, an attendance protocol manager at GACHS, completed the Certification by School Official page of Form SSA-1372 on March XX, 2016, and indicated that Beneficiary’s reported information is correct. J~ also indicated that Beneficiary’s course of study would last at least thirteen weeks and that the school operates on a quarterly/semester basis with no reenrollment required.

According to its website, GACHS is a virtual tuition-free public charter high school. See Graduation Achievement Charter High School (visited April 18, 2016), <http://www.gradgeorgia.com/>. GACHS opened July 2012 under the name Provost Academy Georgia. See About GACHA, Charter Contract (visited April 18, 2016) <http://www.gradgeorgia.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Provost_with-Amendment20151.pdf>. GACHS is accredited by Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement (SACS CASI) and by the Georgia Accrediting Commission. See About GACHA, Letter From the Superintendent (visited on April 18, 2016), <http://www.gradgeorgia.com/about-gachs/letter-from-the-superintendent/>. GACHS is open to students who have not completed a high school diploma or GED and are between 14 and 20 years old. See GACHS, Enrollment Requirements (visited April 18, 2016) <http://www.gradgeorgia.com/graduate-with-your-diploma/qualifications/>.

Students work remotely and can obtain assistance at Graduation Achievement Centers of Georgia in Atlanta, Macon, Augusta, and Savannah. See About GACHA, Letter From the Superintendent (visited April 18, 2016), <http://www.gradgeorgia.com/about-gachs/letter-from-the-superintendent/>. The Graduation Achievement Centers of Georgia are “designed to provide additional academic support to students at high risk of not finishing high school.” Id. GACHS also provides access to “certified teachers for live online tutoring from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, with additional days and hours by appointment.” Id.

The List of Georgia Approved Charter Schools on the Georgia Department of Education’s website identifies GACHS as a statewide virtual, state charter school.[1] See Ga. Dep’t of Ed., Charter Schools (visited April 18, 2016) <http://www.doe.k12.ga.us/External-Affairs-and-Policy/Charter-Schools/Pages/default.aspx> (see link to List of Georgia Approved Charter Schools, 2015-2016). The list of Approved Charter Schools on the Georgia Department of Education’s website also includes GACHS (Provost Academy) as an approved charter school. See Ga. Dep’t of Ed., Approved Charter Schools (visited April 18, 2016) <http://www.gadoe.org/External-Affairs-and-Policy/Charter-Schools/Pages/Approved-Charter-Schools.aspx>.

DISCUSSION

To be eligible for CIB on the earnings record of an insured person entitled to old-age or disability insurance benefits, or who has died, a beneficiary who is eighteen years or older and not disabled must be a “full-time elementary or secondary school student.” See Social Security Act (Act) § 202(d)(1)(B)(i), (d)(7)(A); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.350(a)(5), 404.367 (2015)[2] ; Program Operations Manual System (POMS) RS 00205.001(A). A beneficiary 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) according to the law of the state or jurisdiction where 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). Unless there is evidence to the contrary, the Agency assumes public high schools located in the United States are educational institutions. See POMS RS 00205.250(B)(1).

A beneficiary 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 00205.201(A); POMS RS 00205.300(A). A beneficiary 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, a beneficiary attending an online school may be considered a full-time student if the online school is consistent with the law of the state in which the online 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. A beneficiary meets the state standards if a qualifying educational institution considers the beneficiary to be full-time 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). A beneficiary meets the Federal standards if he or she is scheduled to attend school at least twenty hours per week, enrolled in a non-correspondence course, and enrolled in a course of study of at least thirteen weeks’ duration. See Act § 202(d)(7)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b), (c); POMS RS 00205.300(C). The regulations and POMS do not appear to define “noncorrespondence course” or “correspondence course.” However, the POMS defines “correspondence school” as “a school that teaches by mailing lessons and exercises to the student. Upon completion, the student returns the exercises to the school for grading.” POMS RS 00205.330(A). “Generally, a student is not in full-time attendance based on correspondence school courses even if the correspondence school meets the definition of an [educational institution].” POMS RS 00205.330(B).

Educational Institution under Georgia Law

We determined in a prior opinion that Provost Academy Georgia qualifies as an educational institution under Georgia law, the state in which it is located. See POMS PR 08205.012 (PR 13-034, Dec. 18, 2012). Provost Academy Georgia changed its name to GACHS on August 29, 2015, but otherwise the institution and its charter with the state remain and full force and effect. See About GACHA, Charter Contract (visited April 18, 2016) <http://www.gradgeorgia.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Provost_with-Amendment20151.pdf> at p. 21. No information from Beneficiary or on GACHA’s website warrants a change from the conclusion in our prior opinion regarding GACHA’s predecessor Provost Academy Georgia. Therefore, Beneficiary can qualify as a full-time secondary student based on her enrollment at GACHS.

Full-Time Attendance

Beneficiary reported that she is scheduled to attend GACHS 30 hours per week. J~, an attendance protocol manager at GACHS, certified that Beneficiary’s statements were correct and indicated GACHS’s course of study was at least thirteen weeks in duration.

The information available indicates Beneficiary's studies through GACHS are noncorrespondence courses. According to the GACHS Parent and Student Handbook, GACHS has web-based interactive courses and tutoring where students interact with teachers. See Graduation Achievement Charter High School Parent and Student Handbook, p. 10 (visited April 20, 2016) <http://www.gradgeorgia.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/GACHS_2015-16_Parent_Student_Handbook.pdf>. Students are able to participate in Live Learning Sessions and Live Peer Interactions. Id. at p. 14, 19. Thus, the available information indicates studies through GACHS are noncorrespondence courses.

Thus, the information provided indicates Beneficiary meets the Federal full-time attendance standards. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b), (c); POMS RS 00205.300(C). The evidence also indicates Beneficiary meets the state attendance requirements because J~ certified that Beneficiary’s attendance is full-time under GACHS’s standards and because, as an approved public charter school, GACHS’s attendance standards comply with Georgia law. See POMS RS 00205.295, POMS RS 00205.300, POMS RS 00205.350. Based on this information, Beneficiary is in full-time attendance as a secondary school student for determining her continuing eligibility for CIB. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b), (c).

CONCLUSION

As a public charter school, GACHS is an educational institution under Georgia law. Also, Beneficiary’s attendance at GACHS meets both federal and state standards for full-time attendance. Thus, the information provided establishes Beneficiary is a full-time secondary school student for determining her eligibility for CIB.

Sincerely,

Mary Ann Sloan

Regional Chief Counsel

By: Jennifer McMahon

Assistant Regional Counsel

B. PR 15-080 Based on Enrollment in Ashworth College a.k.a. James Madison High School

DATE: February 9, 2015 

1. SYLLABUS

The claimant, who lives in Alabama, attends James Madison High School (JMHS), a.k.a. Ashworth College, an online school located in Norcross, Georgia. A student attending an online school is in full-time attendance if he or she attends an online school consistent with the law of the state in which it is located and he or she meets both federal and state standards for FTA. JMHS does not qualify as an educational institution in Georgia, the state in which it is located.

2. OPINION

Question

For determining a claimant’s eligibility for child’s insurance benefits (CIB) as a full-time student, you asked whether the claimant’s attendance at Ashworth College a.k.a. James Madison High School (JMHS), an entity located in Georgia, satisfies the requirements for full-time attendance where the claimant is an Alabama resident.

OPINION

JMHS is not an educational institution and Claimant does not meet the State (Alabama) or Federal standards for full-time attendance.

Background

According to the information provided, H~(Claimant) received CIB on the earnings record of her father, J~. , the deceased number holder. Claimant seeks CIB beyond the age of eighteen as a full-time student.  Claimant provided a Student Statement Regarding School Attendance (Form SSA-1372-BK), in which she reported she lives in T~, Alabama, and attends JMHS, which she stated was an online high school located in Norcross, Georgia.  Claimant did not indicate a specific number of hours per week that she attends. However, Claimant said that between the date she completed the Statement and her expected graduation of May 2015, there would be no months in which she will not be in “full time attendance.” Claimant indicated she has attended JMHS since May 2013.  Claimant reported she expected to graduate in May 2015; was not married or disabled; did not expect to earn more than $15,480 in 2014; and was not being paid to attend school. Claimant also provided the Certification by School Official page of Form SSA-1372-BK, but the page is not signed and does not identify a school official.

An Education Specialist with JMHS sent SSA a letter stating Claimant enrolled at JMHS on May 2, 2013, and was an active student in good standing. The Education Specialist explained JMHS did not classify students as full- or part-time and stated students work at their own pace and were not required to spend any set number of hours on their studies. This information conforms with JMHS’s website. See Online Learning Experience – JMHS, http://www.jmhs.com/why-jmhs/learning-experience; Homeschooling High School – Homeschool Online – JMHS, http://www.jmhs.com/why-jmhs/learning-experience (last visited Feb. 3, 2015).  According to JMHS’s website, students access their courses through an online student portal where they start and finish lessons on their own schedule. See Online Learning Experience - JMHS, http://www.jmhs.com/why-jmhs/learning-experience (last visited Feb. 3, 2015).  Students can access classes when and where they like, study at their own pace, and take tests when they choose. See id.

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 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); [3] Program Operations Manual System (POMS) RS 00205.001(A). An individual may qualify as an “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) according to the law of the State or jurisdiction where 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, a claimant attending an on-line school attends full time 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 full-time attendance. See POMS RS 00205.295(B); POMS RS 00205.300(A).  An individual meets the State standards if the school considers the beneficiary to be a full-time student based on the school’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

We have determined in prior opinions that JMHS does not qualify as an educational institution in Georgia, the state in which it is located. See Program Operations Manual System (POMS) PR 07905.012 (PR 14-168, Sept. 11, 2014; PR 13-024, Dec. 3, 2012). The previous opinions were based on the facts that JMHS does not require any set number of hours to be spent on studies and there is no evidence that JMHS keeps attendance logs or complies with Georgia reporting requirements law. See id. ; Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-690(b)(3), (5) (2014). Claimant has provided nothing to warrant a change from the prior determinations.  Therefore, Claimant cannot qualify as a full-time elementary or secondary student based on her enrollment at JMHS.

Home Schooling and Independent Study under Alabama Law

Because Claimant resides in Alabama, we look to Alabama law to determine whether Claimant is home schooled. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a)(1), (b); POMS RS 00205.275(A)-(B). Under Alabama law, every child between the ages of six and seventeen years is required to attend a public school, private school, or church school, or receive instruction from a competent private tutor.  Ala. Code § 16-28-3 (2014). Although Alabama's statutes do not explicitly address home education, homeschoolers can teach their children at home under one of three conditions:  (1) by affiliating with a church school; (2) by affiliating with a private school, or (3) as a private tutor, in which case the tutor must have a valid Alabama teaching certificate. See Ala. Code §§ 16-28-1, 16-28-3, 16-28-5 (2014).

Option one: Church School. Home schools may qualify as “schools that offer instruction in grades K-12, or any combination thereof, including preschool, through on-site or home programs, and are operated as a ministry of a local church, group of churches, denomination, and/or association of churches on a nonprofit basis which do not receive any state or federal funding.” Ala. Code § 16-28-1(2). A child attending a church school is exempt from the requirements of compulsory attendance provided the child complies with the enrollment and reporting procedure in section 16-28-7. Ala. Code §§ 16-1-11.1(3), 16-1-11.3, 16-28-3. “The enrollment and attendance of a child in a church school must be filed with the local public school superintendent by the parent … on a form provided by the superintendent ... which shall be countersigned by the administrator of the church school and returned to the public school superintendent by the parent.” Ala. Code § 16-28-7 (2014).   Additionally, the principal teacher of the church school must keep an attendance register for each day of the school year. Ala. Code § 16-28-8 (2014).  There is no statutory authority authorizing or requiring any state or local authority to regulate church schools, which may conduct classes as they see fit. Ala. Code § 16-1-11.1 (2014). There is no requirement that church school teachers be certified or that a church school be accredited by the state or any private agency. Ala. Code § 16-1-11.1(4) (2014). Other than the state laws requiring parents to report attendance and for church schools to report if a student is no longer in attendance at such a church school, there is no provision of Alabama law that permits or requires any state or local authority to regulate a church school. Ala. Code §§ 16-1-11.1(3), 16-1-11.3 (2014).

Here, JMHS is not affiliated with any church, and there is no evidence that Claimant’s parent has registered with the local school board, or that any certified attendance records are kept and provided to the local school board, as required by statute. Therefore, the information provided does not establish that Claimant is home schooled through a church school in accordance with Alabama law.

Option 2: Private School. A private school “[i]ncludes only such schools that are established, conducted, and supported by a nongovernmental entity or agency offering educational instruction in grades K-12, or any combination thereof, including preschool, through on-site or home programs.” Ala. Code § 16-28-1. Private schools must register annually by October 10 with the Alabama Department of Education and report the number of pupils, the number of instructors, enrollment, attendance, course of study, length of term, cost of tuition, funds, value of property, and the general condition of the school. Ala. Code § 16-1-11. Also, at the end of the fifth day from the opening of public school, the principal teacher of each private school must report to the county superintendent or city superintendent “the names and addresses of all children of mandatory school attendance age who have enrolled in such schools; and thereafter, throughout the compulsory attendance period, the principal teacher of each school … shall report at least weekly the names and addresses of all children of mandatory school attendance age who enroll in the school or who, having enrolled, were absent without being excused, or whose absence was not satisfactorily explained by the parent, guardian, or other person having control of the child.” Ala. §§ 16-28-7, 16-28-8.  The principal teacher of the private school must keep an attendance register for each school day of the year. Ala. Code § 16-28-8. 

JMHS is not affiliated with any private school, and there is no evidence that Claimant is included in the mandatory enrollment or attendance reporting statements of any private school. Ala. Code §§ 16-1-11, 16-28-7, 16-28-8.  There is also no indication that JMHS is registered with the state of Alabama as a private school, or that it provides any enrollment or attendance reports to county or city school superintendents in Alabama. Id.  Therefore, the information provided does not establish that Claimant is home schooled through an affiliation with a private school in accordance with Alabama law.

Option 3: Private Tutor.  A child also may be home schooled if instructed by a competent private tutor. See Ala. Code § 16-28-5.  The tutor must be a State certified teacher, teach “for at least three hours a day for 140 days each calendar year, between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.,” file with the county superintendent a statement describing subjects taught and period of instruction, keep a register of the child’s work showing daily hours of instruction and attendance, and shall make such reports as the State Board of Education may require. Id.; see also Ala. Code § 16-28-7 (2014) (“the principal teacher of each public school, private school, and each private tutor, but not church school, shall report . . . the names and addresses of all children of mandatory school attendance age who have enrolled in such schools”).  To obtain a high school diploma, a child must have credits in such courses as English, algebra, and geometry or their equivalents; biology and a physical science; social studies; health education; career preparedness; and career and technical education, foreign language, or arts education. See Ala. Admin. Code § 290-3-1-.02(8) (2014).  Contents of courses not defined in the State course of study must be approved by the local board of education. Id.

No information has been submitted to demonstrate that Claimant is being taught under conditions that would satisfy Ala. Code § 16-28-5. In fact, the letter from JMHS indicates no tutors or other qualified instructors actively participate in Claimant’s education, as students work on their own at their own pace. No documentation has been provided to show that any of the instructors at JMHS maintains a valid Alabama teaching certificate.  There is also no indication that Claimant is being taught the requisite number of hours, or that her curriculum and attendance are being reported to the local school board. Therefore, the information provided does not establish that Claimant is home schooled by a private tutor in accordance with Alabama law.

Moreover, Claimant’s participation in JMHS 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 the JMHS program.  As such, Claimant’s use of the JMHS’s program does not seem to satisfy the independent study requirements.

CONCLUSION

Claimant has not demonstrated that JMHS is an educational institution under Georgia law. Additionally, it has not been demonstrated that the claiment is participating in a home school study program or independent study program in compliance with Alabama law.  The information provided also does not indicate Claimant meets the standards for full-time attendance. 

 Sincerely,

Mary Ann Sloan

Regional Chief Counsel

By: Richard V. Blake

Assistant Regional Counsel

C. PR 13-034 Status of Provost Academy Georgia as an Educational Institution in Georgia Number Holder – J~ Beneficiary – T~

DATE: December 18, 2012

1. SYLLABUS

Provost Academy Georgia (PAG) is a tuition-free online public high school located in Atlanta, Georgia.

As an approved online charter school, PAG is an educational institution under Georgia law, therefore it is an educational institution (EI) for SSA purposes. The student must also meet Federal standards for full-time attendance and all other requirements for the payment of benefits.

2. OPINION

QUESTION

You asked whether Provost Academy Georgia (PAG), an online academy located in Georgia, is an educational institution for determining if the beneficiary, a Georgia resident, continues to be eligible for child’s insurance benefits (CIB) as a full-time elementary or secondary school student. You also asked whether the beneficiary is in full-time attendance at PAG for determining if he continues to be eligible for CIB as a full-time elementary or secondary school student.

OPINION

PAG is an educational institution offering elementary or secondary education under Georgia law for determining the beneficiary’s continuing eligibility for CIB. The beneficiary also is in full-time attendance at PAG for determining if he continues to be eligible for CIB as a full-time elementary or secondary school student.

BACKGROUND

Tyler (Beneficiary) reached eighteen years of age in November 2012. Beneficiary is receiving CIB on the earnings record of his father, J~. In a Student Statement Regarding School Attendance, Form SSA-1372, Beneficiary reported he is a full-time student at PAG. Beneficiary reported he was in a high school program and scheduled to attend thirty-five hours a week. Beneficiary stated his school year began in August 2012 and ends in June 2013 and that he expects to graduate in June 2015. Trina, an academic advisor at Provost Academy, completed a Certification by School Official form on September 24, 2012, and indicated Beneficiary’s reported information is correct. Trina stated that Beneficiary’s course of study will last at least thirteen weeks and that the school operates on a yearly basis.

According to its website, PAG is a tuition-free online public high school located in Atlanta, Georgia. See Provost Academy Georgia, (visited on December 11, 2012), <http://ga.provostacademy.com/faq>. PAG opened in July 2012, see Provost Academy Georgia, (visited on December 18, 2012) <http://ga.provostacademy.com/about-provost>, and is open for the 2012-2013 school year, see Provost Academy Georgia, (visited on December 11, 2012), <http://ga.provostacademy.com/faq>. PAG is not currently accredited but has submitted an application for accreditation. See Provost Academy Georgia, (visited on December 11, 2012), <http://ga.provostacademy.com/about-provost>. PAG is open to “all students who are eligible for grades 9-12.” See Provost Academy Georgia, Frequently Asked Questions (visited on December 11, 2012) <http://ga.provostacademy.com/faq>.

To be eligible for 2012-2013 school year, students must be residents of Georgia and enroll in PAG “full-time.” See id. Students usually take five to seven credits per year and must enroll for at least the minimum number of credits to stay on pace for high school graduation. See id. With courses delivered via the internet, students may work either remotely using the “student portal” or at a specifically configured Magic J~son Bridgescape Learning Center. See Provost Academy Georgia, About Us (visited on December 11, 2012), <http://ga.provostacademy.com/about-provost>. The Student Portal is a personal home page where a student can access all his or her online learning tools in one locatiohttp://ga.provostacademy.com/how-it-worksn. See Provost Academy Georgia, Learning Technology (visited on December 11, 2012), <http://ga.provostacademy.com/how-it-works>. This includes daily lessons, assignments, tests, grades, academic progress reports, upcoming deadlines, recent attendance, achievement intervention alerts, school and course announcements and more. See id. Students can also communicate with instructors and advisors through an internal messaging system as well as contribute to blogs and forums. See id.

Geographically located throughout the State of Georgia, the Magic J~son Bridgescape Learning Centers provide “supplementary onsite face-to-face support from teachers and paraprofessionals to any Provost Academy student who wants to drop by the Learning Center.” Provost Academy Georgia, (visited on December 11, 2012), <http://ga.provostacademy.com/faq>. Each Learning Center “will have computer labs and multi-purpose rooms for face-to-face instruction, tutoring, and other learning activities.” Id. Students are required to interact with their advisor at least once a week through phone or e-mail. See id. Teachers communicate with students and families about class performance and provide individual instruction on subject-specific questions. Id. Teachers also provide live classes or small group instruction, answers student questions, grade assignments, and give feedback. Id.

The Lists of Georgia Charter Schools on the Georgia Department of Education’s website, identifies PAG as a statewide virtual, start-up charter school serving grades 9-12. See Ga. Dep’t of Ed., Charter Schools (visited December 11, 2012) <http://www.doe.k12.ga.us/External-Affairs-and-Policy/Charter-Schools/Pages/default.aspx> (see link to list of Georgia charter schools). The list of Petitions or Contracts of Approved Charter Schools on the Georgia Department of Education’s website has not yet been updated to list PAG as an approved charter school. See Ga. Dep’t of Ed., Approved Charter Schools (visited December 11, 2012) <http://www.doe.k12.ga.us/External-Affairs-and-Policy/Charter-Schools/Pages/Approved-Charter-Schools.aspx>. However, we confirmed with Louis, Director of Charters Schools at the Georgia Department of Education, that PAG is an approved online charter school in Georgia and obtained a copy of their charter. See Copy attached.

DISCUSSION

The Social Security Act (Act) provides that to be eligible for CIB, a beneficiary who is eighteen years or older and not disabled must be a “full-time elementary or secondary school student.” See Act § 202(d)(1)(B)(i), (d)(7)(A); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.350(a)(5), 404.367 (2012) [4] Program Operations Manual System (POMS) RS 00205.001(A). To qualify as a “full-time elementary or secondary school student,” a beneficiary must attend an “educational institution.” See Act § 202(d)(7)(A), (C)(i), (C)(ii); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a), (e); POMS RS 00205.001(A); POMS RS 00205.200(A). The term “educational institution” is defined as a school that provides elementary or secondary education (grade 12 or below) as determined under the law of the State in which the school is located. See POMS RS 00205.001(A); POMS RS 00205.200(A). Unless there is evidence to the contrary, the Agency assumes public high schools located in the United States are educational institutions. See POMS RS 00205.250(B)(1). [5]

In addition to attending an educational institution or participating in an equivalent program, a beneficiary 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 00205.201(A); POMS RS 00205.300(A). The POMS states that a beneficiary attending an online school is in full-time attendance if he or she is attending an educational institution and meets both State and Federal standards for full-time attendance. See POMS 00205.295(B); POMS RS 00205.300(B); POMS RS 00205.350. A beneficiary meets the State standards if the school considers the beneficiary to be full-time based on the school’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). A beneficiary meets the Federal standards if he or she is scheduled to attend school at least twenty hours per week, enrolled in a non-correspondence course, and enrolled in a course of study of at least thirteen weeks’ duration. See Act § 202(d)(7)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b), (c); POMS RS 00205.300(C). The regulations and POMS do not appear to define “noncorrespondence course” or “correspondence course.” However, the POMS defines “correspondence school” as “a school that teaches by mailing lessons and exercises to the student. Upon completion, the student returns the exercises to the school for grading.” POMS RS 00205.330(A).

Beneficiary, PAG’s website, and the Georgia Department of Education’s website indicate PAG is located in Georgia. Therefore, we look to Georgia law to determine whether PAG qualifies as an educational institution. See Act § 202(d)(7)(C)(i); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a); POMS RS 00205.200(A). Georgia’s compulsory education law recognizes public schools, private schools, and home study programs as “educational entities.” See Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-690(a) (West 2012).[6] Georgia law permits the creation of charter schools. See Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-2060 (West 2012). Charter schools are public schools that receive public funds and are not private schools. See Ga. Dep’t of Ed., General Frequently Asked Questions, Charter School Basics (visited December 11, 2012 <http://www.doe.k12.ga.us/External-Affairs-and-Policy/Charter-Schools/Pages/General-Frequently-Asked-Questions.aspx>. Unlike private schools, public schools cannot charge tuition, must have fair and open enrollment, must be secular, and must serve all student populations, including students with disabilities and English language learners. See id.; see also Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-2065(b)(1) (a charter school is a public, nonsectarian, nonreligious, nonprofit school that cannot be home based but may use computer and Internet based instruction for students in a virtual or remote setting). Georgia does not allow public schools to have admissions criteria. See Ga. Dep’t of Ed., General Frequently Asked Questions, Charter School Basics (visited December 11, 2012 <http://www.doe.k12.ga.us/External-Affairs-and-Policy/Charter-Schools/Pages/General-Frequently-Asked-Questions.aspx>.

In Georgia, there are two types of charter schools: start-up charter schools and conversion charter schools. See id. Whereas a conversion charter school is a charter school that previously existed as a traditional public school, a start-up charter school is a charter school that did not exist prior to becoming a charter school. See id. Georgia then groups start-up charter schools by their authorizer: locally-approved charter schools and state-chartered special schools. See id. A state-chartered special school is a school that the State Board of Education has approved after a local school district has denied the school. See Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-2062(1), (16). Once the State Board of Education approves a charter, the school must meet the requirements of its charter, as well as any other applicable state law requirements such as reporting and accountability requirements. See Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-2065.

Based on the above-mentioned law, Georgia law would classify PAG as a secondary school because PAG offers classes for grades nine through twelve, according to PAG’s website. In addition, it appears that PAG also meets the definition of a public school under Georgia law. According to Louis, Director of Charters Schools at the Georgia Department of Education, PAG is an approved online charter school in Georgia. A copy of PAG’s charter confirms that the Georgia Department of Education approved it as an online charter school. [7] Likewise, the List of Georgia Charter Schools specifically confirms that PAG is a start-up charter school for the 2012 -2013 school year. See Ga. Dep’t of Ed., List of Georgia Charter Schools (visited December 11, 2012) <http://www.doe.k12.ga.us/External-Affairs-and-Policy/Charter-Schools/Pages/default.aspx>. Because PAG is a start-up charter school, the State Board of Education has approved it. See Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-2062(1), (16). The Agency assumes public high schools located in the United States are educational institutions unless there is evidence to the contrary. See POMS RS 00205.250(B)(1). Consequently, PAG is an educational institution for determining whether Beneficiary is a full-time elementary or secondary school student eligible for CIB.

Finally, Beneficiary is also in full-time attendance. Beneficiary’s courses last more than thirteen weeks and he is scheduled to attend Provost Academy 35 hours per week. On the Certification of School Official form, T~, a PAG academic advisor, has also certified Beneficiary’s attendance at PAG and that PAG’s course of study was at least thirteen weeks in duration. While PAG students access all of their online learning tools via a Student Portal, see Provost Academy Georgia, Learning Technology (visited on December 11, 2012), <http://ga.provostacademy.com/how-it-works>, PAG also appears to be a noncorrespondence course, students can also communicate with instructors and advisors through an internal messaging system. See id. PAG’s website indicated that the Magic J~ son Bridgescape Learning Centers provides supplementary onsite face-to-face support from teachers and paraprofessionals to any Provost Academy student who wants to drop by the Learning Center. See Provost Academy Georgia, (visited on December 11, 2012), <http://ga.provostacademy.com/faq>. However, it does not yet appear that these learning centers are operational. See id. Still, students are required to interact with their academic advisor at least once a week through phone or e-mail. See id. Teachers also provide live classes or small group instruction, answers student questions, grade assignments, and give feedback. Id. Based on this information, Beneficiary is in full-time attendance as a secondary school student for purposes of his continuing eligibility for CIB. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b), (c).

CONCLUSION

As a public charter school, PAG is an educational institution under Georgia law. Also, Beneficiary’s attendance at PGA meets both federal and state standards for full-time attendance. Thus, the information provided establishes Beneficiary is a full-time elementary or secondary school student for determining her eligibility for CIB.

Sincerely,

Mary Ann Sloan
Regional Chief Counsel

By: Arthurice T. Brundidge

Assistant Regional Counsel

D. PR 13-013 Eligibility for Child’s Insurance Benefits as a Full-Time Elementary or Secondary School Student Based on Attendance at Georgia Cyber Academy

DATE: November 9, 2012

1. SYLLABUS

Georgia Cyber Academy (GCA) is a State-chartered special virtual school serving grades K-12 located in Atlanta, Georgia. As a public charter school, GCA is an educational institution under Georgia law, therefore it is an educational institution (EI) for SSA purposes. The student must also meet Federal standards for full-time attendance and all other requirements for the payment of benefits.

2. OPINION

QUESTION

You asked whether Georgia Cyber Academy, an online entity located in Georgia, is an educational institution for determining if the beneficiary, a Georgia resident, qualifies for child’s insurance benefits as a full-time elementary or secondary school student. You also asked whether the beneficiary is in full-time attendance for determining if he qualifies for child’s insurance benefits as a full-time elementary or secondary school student.

OPINION

Georgia Cyber Academy is an educational institution offering elementary or secondary education under Georgia law. Additionally, based on the available information, the beneficiary is in full-time attendance at Georgia Cyber Academy for determining his eligibility for child’s insurance benefits.

BACKGROUND

According to the information provided, Brian (Beneficiary) is receiving child’s insurance benefits (CIB) on the earnings record of Richard. Beneficiary turned age eighteen on March 2012, and his eligibility for CIB from April 2012 through May 2013 is dependent on his student status. Beneficiary completed a Student’s Statement Regarding School Attendance form, indicating he was attending Georgia Cyber Academy (GCA), an online entity located in Atlanta, Georgia. Beneficiary also reported he is scheduled to attend GCA for twenty-five hours per week and is expected to graduate from high school in May 2014. Beneficiary further reported he is not disabled, married, or receiving payment from an employer to attend school. Beneficiary provided a Georgia mailing address on the school attendance form he completed.

A school official with GCA certified that the information Beneficiary provided was correct according to GCA’s records and that GCA’s course of study would last at least thirteen weeks.

According to the Georgia Department of Education’s website, GCA is a State-chartered special virtual school serving grades K-12. [8] Ga. Dep’t of Ed., Charter Schools, http://www.doe.k12.ga.us/External-Affairs-and-Policy/Charter-Schools/Pages/default.aspx (visited October 18, 2012) (see link to list of Ga. charter schools). GCA’s website also states that GCA is an online public school. Georgia Cyber Academy, Who We Are, Our School at a Glance, http://www.k12.com/gca/who-we-are (visited October 18, 2012). GCA’s website explains that, as a public school, GCA expects students to spend a certain amount of time each day engaged in schoolwork, and requires students to take standardized tests mandated by the state of Georgia. Georgia Cyber Academy, Myths About Online Schools, http://www.k12.com/gca/how-it-works/myths (visited October 18, 2012).

GCA offers core classes in math, science, language arts, and social studies in addition to electives, honors, and AP courses. High School Course List, http://www.k12.com/courses/high-school-courses/high-school-course-list/ (visited October 18, 2012). GCA’s website provides that, in addition to using print and online resources, students interact with teachers regularly through email, telephone, and online meetings. Georgia Cyber Academy, How it Works, http://www.k12.com/gca/how-it-works (visited October 18, 2012). Students are also invited to participate in school outings, field trips, picnics, and other social events. Georgia Cyber Academy, General FAQs, http://www.k12.com/gca/faqs/general (visited Oct. 18, 2012).

DISCUSSION

To be eligible for CIB on the earnings record of an individual entitled to “old-age or disability insurance benefits, or of an individual who dies a fully or currently insured individual,” a beneficiary who is eighteen years or older and not disabled must be a “full-time elementary or secondary school student.” See Social Security Act (Act) § 202(d)(1)(B)(i); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.350(a)(5), 404.367 (2012); [9] Program Operations Manual System (POMS) RS 00205.001. To qualify as a “full-time elementary or secondary school student,” a beneficiary must attend 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), (C)(i), (C)(ii); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a), (e); POMS RS 00205.001.A; POMS RS 00205.200.A. Unless there is evidence to the contrary, SSA assumes public high schools located in the United States are educational institutions. POMS RS 00205.250.B.1.

A beneficiary 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. The POMS states that a beneficiary attending an online school is in full-time attendance if he or she is attending 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. A beneficiary meets the State standards if the school considers the beneficiary to be full time based on the school’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. A beneficiary meets the Federal standards if he or she is scheduled to attend school at the rate of twenty hours per week, enrolled in a noncorrespondence course, and enrolled in a course of study that is of at least thirteen weeks duration. See Act § 202(d)(7)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b), (c); POMS RS 00205.300.C. The regulations and POMS do not appear to define “noncorrespondence course” or “correspondence course.” However, the POMS defines “correspondence school” as “a school that teaches by mailing lessons and exercises to the student. Upon completion, the student returns the exercises to the school for grading.” POMS RS 00205.330.A.

Beneficiary and GCA’s website indicate GCA is located in Atlanta, Georgia. Therefore, we look to Georgia law to determine whether GCA is a school that provides elementary or secondary education. Georgia’s compulsory education law recognizes three types of educational entities: public schools, private schools, and home study programs. See Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-690(a) (West 2012). [10] Georgia law provides for the creation of charter schools. See Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-2060. A charter school is a public school that operates under the terms of a charter. Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-2062(3). A state-chartered special school is a charter school approved by the State Board of Education. Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-2062(1), (16). A charter school is a public, nonsectarian, nonreligious, nonprofit school that cannot be home based but may use computer and Internet based instruction for students in a virtual or remote setting. See Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-2065(b)(1). Once the State Board of Education approves a charter, the school must meet the requirements of its charter, as well as any other applicable state law requirements such as reporting and accountability requirements. See Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-2065.

The Georgia Department of Education’s website establishes that GCA is a State-chartered special virtual school serving grades K-12 throughout Georgia. Ga. Dep’t of Ed., Charter Schools, http://www.doe.k12.ga.us/External-Affairs-and-Policy/Charter-Schools/Pages/default.aspx (visited October 18, 2012) (see link to list of Ga. charter schools). Accordingly, GCA is a Georgia public school and an educational institution under Georgia law. See Act § 202(d)(7)(C)(i); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a); POMS RS 00205.001.A; POMS RS 00205.200.A; POMS RS 00205.250.B.1; Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-2062(3).

Information from Beneficiary and GCA’s website also indicates Beneficiary’s attendance at GCA is full-time. Beneficiary reported he is attending full time and scheduled to attend GCA for twenty-five hours per week. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(c). A GCA school official certified Beneficiary’s statements were correct and that GCA’s course of study was at least thirteen weeks in duration. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b). GCA’s website does not indicate that its courses are correspondence courses. See id. GCA’s website states that, in addition to using print and online resources, students interact with teachers regularly through email, telephone, and online meetings and are invited to participate in school outings such as field trips. Georgia Cyber Academy, General FAQs, http://www.k12.com/gca/faqs/general (visited Oct. 18, 2012); Georgia Cyber Academy, How it Works, http://www.k12.com/gca/how-it-works (visited October 18, 2012). Thus, the information provided indicates Beneficiary meets the Federal full-time attendance standards. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b), (c); POMS RS 00205.300.C. The evidence also indicates Beneficiary meets state requirements because a GCA school official certified Beneficiary’s attendance is full-time under their standards and, as an approved public school, GCA’s attendance standards comply with Georgia law. See POMS RS 00205.295, POMS RS 00205.300, POMS RS 00205.350. Thus, the available information indicates Beneficiary is in full-time attendance.

CONCLUSION

As a public charter school, GCA is an educational institution under Georgia law. Also, Beneficiary’s attendance at GCA meets both federal and state standards for full-time attendance. Thus, the information provided establishes Beneficiary is a full-time elementary or secondary school student for determining his eligibility for CIB.

Mary Ann Sloan
Regional Chief Counsel

By: Laura Verduci

Assistant Regional Counsel

E. PR 13-006 Eligibility for Child’s Insurance Benefits as a Full-Time Elementary or Secondary School Student Based on Attendance at Georgia Connections Academy

DATE: October 11, 2012

1. SYLLABUS

Georgia Connections Academy( GCA) is an online public charter school for grades K-12 located in Duluth, Georgia. GCA meets Georgia law requirements for a secondary school, therefore it is an educational institution (EI) for SSA purposes. The student must also meet Federal standards for full-time attendance and all other requirements for the payment of benefits.

2. OPINION

QUESTION

You asked whether Georgia Connections Academy, an online entity located in Georgia, is an online educational institution for the purpose of determining if the beneficiary, a Georgia resident, qualifies for child’s insurance benefits as a full-time elementary or secondary school student. You also asked whether the beneficiary is in full-time attendance for the purpose of determining if she qualifies for child’s insurance benefits as a full-time elementary or secondary school student.

OPINION

Georgia Connections Academy is an educational institution offering elementary or secondary education under Georgia law. Additionally, based on the available information, the beneficiary is in full-time attendance at Georgia Connections Academy for purposes of determining her eligibility for child’s insurance benefits.

BACKGROUND

According to the information provided, Taylor (Beneficiary) was receiving child’s insurance benefits (CIB) on the earnings record of her mother, Arna, who is currently entitled to disability insurance benefits.  Beneficiary turned age eighteen on September XX, 2012, and the Social Security Administration (SSA) terminated her benefits in September 2012. Beneficiary completed a Student’s Statement Regarding School Attendance form, indicating she was attending Georgia Connections Academy (GCA), an online entity located in Duluth, Georgia, for the 2012-2013 school year. Beneficiary also reported she is scheduled to attend GCA for twenty-five and a half hours per week and is expected to graduate from high school in May 2013. Beneficiary further reported she is not disabled, married, or receiving payment from an employer to attend school.  Beneficiary provided a Georgia mailing address on the school attendance form she completed. 

A counselor with GCA certified that the information Beneficiary provided was correct according to GCA’s record and that GCA’s course of study would last at least thirteen weeks.

GCA’s website states that GCA is an online public charter school for grades K-12, authorized under state law by the Georgia State Board of Education. Georgia Connections Academy, Free Public Cyber School in Georgia, http://www.connectionsacademy.com/georgia-school/home.aspx (last visited Sept. 27, 2012). GCA’s website indicates that it “gives students the flexibility to learn at home with a curriculum that meets rigorous state education standards.” Id.  The 2012-13 school year runs from August 8, 2012, to May 24, 2013. Id. GCA offers core classes in math, science, language arts, and social studies in addition to electives, honors and AP courses, and college-credit classes.  Georgia Connections Academy, High School: Virtual School Curriculum, http://www.connectionsacademy.com/georgia-school/curriculum/high-school/ home.aspx (last visited Sept. 27, 2012). GCA’s website states that, in addition to using print and online resources, students interact with teachers and classmates in real-time, online classrooms; receive one-on-one interaction with teachers in telephone sessions and after-hours tutoring; and attend school-sponsored field trips.  Georgia Connections Academy, Socialization & Community, Connecting Students, http://www.connectionsacademy.com/georgia-school/our-school/virtual-community/home.aspx (visited Sept. 27, 2012); Georgia Connections Academy, Cyber School Curriculum, http://www.connectionsacademy.com/georgia-school/curriculum/home.aspx (visited Sept. 27, 2012). 

According to the Georgia Department of Education’s website, GCA is a State-wide virtual school and State-chartered special school serving grades K-12.  Ga. Dep't of Ed., Charter Schools, http://www.doe.k12.ga.us/External-Affairs-and-Policy/Charter-Schools/ Pages/ default.aspx (visited Sept. 27, 2012) (see link to list of Ga. charter schools). The Georgia Department of Education’s website also specifically lists GCA as an approved charter school and provides a copy of its charter. Ga. Dep't of Ed., Approved Charter Schools, http://www.doe.k12.ga.us/External-Affairs-and-Policy/Charter-Schools/Pages/Approved-Charter-Schools.aspx (visited Sept. 27, 2012).

DISCUSSION

To be eligible for CIB on the earnings record of an individual entitled to disability insurance benefits, a beneficiary who is eighteen years or older and not disabled must be a “full-time elementary or secondary school student.”  See Social Security Act (Act) § 202(d)(1)(B)(i); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.350(a)(5), 404.367 (2012); All references to 20 C.F.R. are to the 2012 version unless otherwise noted.

Program Operations Manual System (POMS) RS 00205.001. To qualify as a “full-time elementary or secondary school student,” a beneficiary must attend 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), (C)(i), (C)(ii); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a), (e); POMS RS 00205.001.A; POMS RS 00205.200.A. Unless there is evidence to the contrary, SSA assumes public high schools located in the United States are educational institutions.  POMS RS 00205.250.B.1. 

A beneficiary 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.  The POMS states that a beneficiary attending an online school is in full-time attendance if he or she is attending 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. A beneficiary meets the State standards if the school considers the beneficiary to be full time based on the school’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. A beneficiary meets the Federal standards if he or she is scheduled to attend school at the rate of twenty hours per week, enrolled in a noncorrespondence course, and enrolled in a course of study that is of at least thirteen weeks duration. See Act § 202(d)(7)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b), (c); POMS RS 00205.300.C. The regulations and POMS do not appear to define “noncorrespondence course” or “correspondence course.” However, the POMS defines “correspondence school” as “a school that teaches by mailing lessons and exercises to the student. Upon completion, the student returns the exercises to the school for grading.”  POMS RS 00205.330.A. 

Beneficiary and GCA’s website indicate GCA is located in Duluth, Georgia. Therefore, we look to Georgia law to determine whether GCA is a school that provides elementary or secondary education. Georgia’s compulsory education law recognizes three types of educational entities: public schools, private schools, and home study programs. See Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-690(a) (West 2012). All references to the Ga. Code Ann. are to the West 2012 version unless otherwise noted. Georgia law provides for the creation of charter schools. See Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-2060 (West 2012).  A charter school is a public school that operates under the terms of a charter. Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-2062(3). A state-chartered special school is a charter school that has been approved by the State Board of Education. Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-2062(1), (16). A charter school is a public, nonsectarian, nonreligious, nonprofit school that cannot be home based but may use computer and Internet based instruction for students in a virtual or remote setting. See Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-2065(b)(1). Once the State Board of Education approves a charter, the school must meet the requirements of its charter, as well as any other applicable state law requirements such as reporting and accountability requirements. See Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-2065. 

The Georgia Department of Education’s website establishes that GCA is a State-chartered special virtual school serving grades K-12 throughout Georgia. Ga. Dep't of Ed., Charter Schools, http://www.doe.k12.ga.us/External-Affairs-and-Policy/Charter-Schools/Pages/ default.aspx (visited Sept. 27, 2012); Ga. Dep't of Ed., Approved Charter Schools, http://www.doe.k12.ga.us/External-Affairs-and-Policy/Charter-Schools/Pages/Approved-Charter-Schools.aspx (visited Sept. 27, 2012).  Accordingly, GCA is a Georgia public school and an educational institution under Georgia law. See Act § 202(d)(7)(C)(i); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a); POMS RS 00205.001.A; POMS RS 00205.200.A; POMS RS 00205.250.B.1.

Information from Beneficiary and GCA’s website also indicates Beneficiary’s attendance at GCA is full-time. Beneficiary reported she is in full-time attendance and is scheduled to attend GCA for twenty-five and a half hours per week.  See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(c). A GCA counselor certified Beneficiary’s statements were correct and that GCA’s course of study was at least thirteen weeks in duration. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b). GCA’s website does not indicate that its courses are correspondence courses. See id. GCA’s website states that, in addition to using print and online resources, students interact with teachers and classmates in real-time, online classrooms; receive one-on-one interaction with teachers in telephone sessions and after-hours tutoring; and attend school-sponsored field trips.  Georgia Connections Academy, Socialization & Community, Connecting Students, http://www.connectionsacademy.com/georgia-school/our-school/virtual-community/home.aspx (visited Sept. 27, 2012); Georgia Connections Academy, Cyber School Curriculum, http://www.connectionsacademy.com/georgia-school/curriculum/ home.aspx (visited Sept. 27, 2012). Thus, the information provided indicates Beneficiary meets the Federal full-time attendance standards. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b), (c); POMS RS 00205.300.C.  The evidence also indicates Beneficiary meets state requirements because a GCA counselor certified Beneficiary’s attendance is full-time under their standards and because, as an approved public school, GCA’s attendance standards comply with Georgia law. See POMS RS 00205.295, POMS RS 00205.300, POMS RS 00205.350. Thus, the available information indicates Beneficiary is in full-time attendance.

CONCLUSION

As a public charter school, GCA is an educational institution under Georgia law. Also, Beneficiary’s attendance at GCA meets both federal and state standards for full-time attendance.  Thus, the information provided establishes Beneficiary is a full-time elementary or secondary school student for the purpose of determining her eligibility for CIB.  

Mary Ann Sloan
Regional Chief Counsel

By: Brian C. Huberty

Assistant Regional Counsel

F. PR 10-116 Arkansas State Law Requirements for Internet Online Schooling (NH Elizabeth SSN ~ : J~ , Student) – REPLY

DATE: May 11, 2010

1. SYLLABUS

The online program at the National High School (NHS) in Atlanta, Georgia, which provides high school courses via the Internet, is not an educational institution (EI) under either Georgia or Arkansas law. Thus, the NHS is not an EI for SSA purposes. If a student alleges full-time attendance at an online school in Georgia or Arkansas other than the NHS in Atlanta, Georgia, and no legal precedent opinion exists for the school, the adjudicator should follow the instructions in RS 00205.295 and GN 01010.815 to obtain a legal precedent opinion about its EI status.

2. OPINION

You have requested an opinion regarding whether the National High School in Atlanta, Georgia, which is an educational institution that provides online high school courses via the Internet (http://www.nationalhighschool.com/), meets the definition of an educational institution under the Social Security Act (Act). The agency accepts public schools in the United States as educational institutions (elementary schools, middle schools, junior high schools, and high schools). See Social Security Administration Program Operations Manual System (POMS) RS 00205.250(B)(1). With state or other local jurisdiction approval, certain preparatory and postsecondary schools may provide education at the secondary level or below, and the agency will consider those schools educational institutions. Id. RS 00205.250(A). We believe that the National High School online program is not an educational institution under the Act, and that as a result, J~’s) entitlement to benefits on the number holder’s account stopped once he turned eighteen. The facts indicate that in August 2000, J~ became entitled to child’s insurance benefits. J~ resides in Arkansas. J~ attained age 18 in December 2009, after which the agency terminated his child’s insurance benefits. In December 2009, J~ completed SSA Form 1372, Student’s Statement Regarding School Attendance, stating that he had been attending the National High School based in Atlanta, Georgia, since September 1, 2009; that he was scheduled to attend online instruction for 35 hours per week; that his school year would end in May 2010; and that he expected to graduate in May 2010. A National High School official certified that J~ was enrolled in an on-line school program, with full-time attendance, but that the National High School did not monitor the student’s full-time attendance. A National High School’s registrar signed and dated SSA Form 1382, certifying that the National High School’s course of study was at least 13 weeks in duration. On March 24, 2010, Michelle , a National High School’s registrar, represented during a telephone conference that the National High School is a privately owned program that is not affiliated with the State of Georgia, and that the National High School is not required and does not report student enrollment to Georgia public school districts or any other state official or department. The Act provides for the payment of child’s insurance benefits to certain applicants over the age of 18 who are full-time elementary or secondary Secondary school is a school intermediate between elementary school and college and usually offers general, technical, vocational, or college-preparatory courses. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/secondary%20school. school (educational institution) The POMS refer to elementary or secondary education schools, grade 12 or below, as educational institutions. See POMS RS 00205.200(A). students. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 402(d)(1)(B), 402(d)(7)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.350(a)(5); POMS RS 00205.001(A). Under the Act, an educational institution 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(a); POMS RS 00205.300. The regulations consider a home school program The evidence you provided does not show that J~ was in a home school program while taking classes from the National High School. or an independent study program Independent study programs are run by local education agencies such as high schools or school districts, in accordance with specific State law requirements, and the credits earned count towards high school graduation. See POMS RS 00205.285(A). to be an educational institution if it is in accordance with the law of the state in which the student resides. 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a)(1), (2). As an initial matter, we address the issue of whether J~ is a full-time student at the National High School. As previously noted, in order to be eligible to receive child’s insurance benefits, an applicant who is 18 years of age but has not attained age 19 must be a full-time student, based on Federal standards, at an educational institution. See 42 U.S.C. 402(d)(1)(B); POMS RS 00205.285. The agency considers a student to be a full-time student if he attends a school that provides a secondary education under the law of the state in which the school is located and if the student: (1) is in full-time attendance in a day or evening non-correspondence course of at least 13 weeks duration; (2) carries a subject load considered full-time for day students under the institution’s standards and practices; and (3) attends school at least 20 hours a week. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a), (b), (c); POMS RS 00205.300(C). The National High School program does not monitor full-time attendance. Thus, the agency cannot confirm whether J~ is in full-time attendance at the National High School. Although we cannot confirm J~’s full-time attendance at the National High School, we address the question of whether the National High School qualifies as an educational institution under Georgia law. Georgia recognizes three types of educational institutions: public schools, private schools, and home school programs. Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-690(a). The National High School is privately owned and is not affiliated with the State of Georgia. Therefore, we conclude that the National High School is not a Georgia public school under Georgia law. The National High School is also not a private school under Georgia law. To qualify as a private school under Georgia law, an institution must (1) provide education as its primary purpose; (2) be privately controlled and operate on a continuing basis; (3) provide instruction each 12 months for the equivalent of 180 school days of education with each school day consisting of at least four and one-half school hours; (4) provide a basic academic educational program that includes reading, language arts, mathematics, social studies, and science; (5) provide the school superintendent of each local public school district with the name, age, and residence of each of the residents enrolled in the private school and provide monthly updates of students who enroll or terminate enrollment in the private school; and (6) meet local health and safety standards. Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-690(b). The National High School does not meet the reporting or attendance criteria of Section 20-2-690(b) of the Georgia Code. The National High School is not affiliated with the State of Georgia and does not report student enrollment to the superintendents of the local public school districts or to any other state official or department. The National High School’s website states that the virtual campus is in continuous online operation and is available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. See http://www.nationalhighschool.com/curriculum.asp (last viewed on April 30, 2010). However, a National High School official reported that the National High School online program does not monitor attendance of any individual student, which means that the online program does not confirm a student attends the equivalent of 180 school days of education with each school day consisting of at least four and one-half school hours. See Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-690(b) (criteria institutions must meet to qualify as private schools under Georgia law). Rather, the National High School’s website provides that students “choose the times when they believe they are best prepared to engage in particular learning activities and spend as long as they want working on them.” See Footnote 6. Because the National High School does not meet the state’s reporting or attendance requirements, it does not qualify as a private school under Georgia law. While Georgia recognizes a home school program as an educational institution, we conclude that Georgia would also not recognize the National High School as a home school program. Under Georgia law, parents and guardians may teach their children in a home school program that meets certain requirements. Because the National High School is not a parent or guardian of the students enrolled in its program, it fails as a threshold matter to qualify as a home school program under Georgia law. See Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-690(c)(3) (parents or guardians may teach only their own children in the home school program). Furthermore, the National High School does not qualify as a home school program under Georgia law because it does not meet the reporting or attendance requirements of the statute. See Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-690(c)(1), (2), (5), (6). These sections require a written declaration listing the names and ages of each home-schooled student be filed with the local superintendent of schools; certification that instruction is provided an equivalent of 180 days per year with each day being at least four and one-half hours; and the monthly submission of attendance records to the local superintendent of schools. Id. The National High School does not meet these requirements. Because the National High School does not qualify as an educational institution under Georgia law, we next address the question of whether the National High School qualifies as an educational institution under Arkansas law. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a). As previously noted, the agency will consider certain schools to be educational institutions if the state or other local jurisdictions approved the school to provide education at the secondary level or below. POMS RS 00205.250. The agency accepts public schools in the United States as educational institutions (elementary schools, middle schools, junior high schools, and high schools). See POMS RS 00205.250(B)(1). The evidence shows that the National High School is not a public school because it is privately owned and is not affiliated with the State of Arkansas. In addition, Arkansas or any local jurisdiction in the State of Arkansas has not approved the National High School to provide education at the secondary level or below. The evidence also shows that the Arkansas Nonpublic School Accrediting Association (ANSAA) has not accredited the National High School. See ANSAA Directory 2009-2010, “Promoting Quality Education.” An electronic copy of the ANSAA Directory 2009-2010, “Promoting Quality Education,” is available in “.pdf” format at http://www.ansaa.com/memberschools.htm (last viewed on April 30, 2010). Therefore, the National High School is not an educational institution under Arkansas law. While Arkansas also recognizes a home school program as an educational institution, we conclude that Arkansas would not recognize the National High School as a home school program. Under Arkansas law, parents and guardians may teach their children in a home school program. See Ark. Code Ann. §§ 6-15-501, 6-15-503, 6-15-504. Because the National High School is not a parent or guardian of the students enrolled in its program, it fails as a threshold matter to qualify as a home school program under Arkansas law. See Ark. Code Ann. § 6-15-501 (home school means a school “provided by a parent or legal guardian for his or her own child”). Furthermore, the National High School does not qualify as a home school program under Arkansas law because it does not meet the reporting and testing requirements of the statute. See Ark. Code Ann. § 6-15-503(a)(1). Under Arkansas law, the parents or guardians desiring to provide a home school for their children must give written notice to the superintendent of their local school district of their intent to provide a home school for their children and sign a waiver acknowledging that the State of Arkansas is not liable for the education of their children during the time that the parents choose to home school. Ark. Code Ann. §§ 6-15-503, 6-15-504. There is no evidence that anyone gave written notice to the superintendent of J~’s local school district regarding attending a home school program while taking classes from the National High School program. In addition, to qualify as a home school program, each student must take a standardized achievement test that the Arkansas Department of Education administers each year. Ark. Code Ann. § 6-15-504(b)(1)(A). There is also no evidence that J~ has taken or will take the Arkansas Department of Education standardized achievement test. Thus, the National High School does not qualify as a home school program under Arkansas law. We next address the issue of whether the National High School qualifies as an independent study program An independent study is also known as off campus or alternative school. POMS RS 00205.285(A). under Arkansas law. The regulations define an independent study program as an elementary or secondary education program in accordance with the law of the state or other jurisdiction in which the student resides which the local school or school district administers. 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a)(2). The POMS further define an independent study program as a program that local education agencies, such as high schools or school districts, run in accordance with specific state law requirements, and the credits earned count toward high school graduation. POMS RS 00205.285(A). Independent study programs involve periodic teacher contact, direction, and testing on campus, with the student making academic progress generally through independent study at home. Id. In Arkansas, the Department of Education oversees and coordinates the implementation of distance learning, Distance learning is the technology, educational process, and independent study program that Arkansas schools use to provide instruction when the student and primary instructor are not physically present at the same time and place. See Arkansas Department of Education Rules Governing Distance Learning” (RGDL), Rule 3.05. which is what is used to conduct independent study programs, in elementary and secondary public schools and promulgates rules and regulations to establish appropriate adult supervision in distance-learning courses. See Ark. Code Ann. §§ 6-47-201(a)-(b), 6-47-302(a). The Department of Education must approve all distance learning courses, including out-of-state course providers, before an educational institution may import those courses through distance learning. See Ark. Code Ann. §§ 6-47-201(c)(1), 6-47-302(b)(1); see also RGDL, Rule 4.01. An electronic copy of the RGDL can be found at http://dlc.k12.ar.us/ (last viewed on April 30, 2010). The Department of Education requires that all distance-learning courses have an appropriately licensed or approved primary instructor; Appropriately licensed or approved instructor is a teacher either licensed to teach the content of the required course in a public school in Arkansas or that the Commissioner of the Arkansas Department of Education approves to teach the content through distance-learning technology. The intent of the approval process is to provide flexibility for the approval of teachers of programs originating from outside Arkansas, exceptionally qualified individuals within the state whom may not meet licensure requirements, or teachers of courses that do not have an appropriate licensure requirement. RGDL, Rule 3.03. that an adult facilitator An adult facilitator is the person responsible for supervising and assisting the students at the receiving site. The adult facilitator must be an adult approved by the school district. See RGDL, Rule 3.01. must be present when student achievement assessments used to determine a student’s final grade are administered in a distance-learning course; and that all distance learning courses must comply with the Arkansas Standards for Accreditation. See RGDL Rules 4.02, 4.04, 4.05. The only representation that the National High School program makes is that it is accredited by the Commission on International Trans-Regional Accreditation (CITA) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). There is no evidence that the Arkansas Department of Education has approved the National High School courses; that the National High School has appropriately licensed or approved primary instructors; that the National High School has an adult facilitator during student achievement assessments; and that the National High School online courses comply with the Arkansas Standards for Accreditation. Thus, the National High School does not qualify as an independent study program under Arkansas law.

In conclusion, we cannot confirm whether J~ is a full-time student at the National High School. However, the National High School is not an educational institution under either Georgia law or Arkansas law. Therefore, J~ is not a full-time student at an educational institution under the Act, and his entitlement to child’s insurance benefits on the number holder’s account stopped once he turned eighteen.

Michael McGaughran
Regional Chief Counsel

By: Ruben Montemayor

Assistant Regional Counsel

G. PR 10-072 Legal precedent opinions for online schooling -- Region IV jurisdictions

DATE: March 12, 2010

1. SYLLABUS

Georgia recognizes online learning through the Georgia Virtual School (GVS). A public school student attending the GVS must (1) have approval from his or her local school of the courses he or she takes with the GVS; (2) have a monitor at the local school who works with the online instructor, who provides the student with face-to-face support, technical and academic guidance, and resources at the local school, who is responsible for coordinating required tests, and who acts as a liaison between the local school and the GVS; and (3) have the local school’s agreement to accept and transcribe the student’s grades at the end of the semester. If a student alleges full-time attendance (FTA) at a different online school in Georgia, or a private school student alleges FTA at an online school in Georgia, including the GVS, the adjudicator should follow the instructions in RS 00205.295 and in GN 01010.815 to obtain a legal precedent opinion about its educational institution status.

2. OPINION

BACKGROUND

To be eligible for child’s benefits on the earnings record of an insured person who is entitled to old-age or disability benefits, a claimant eighteen 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)(B)(i); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.350(a)(5), 404.367 (2009). An individual can meet this requirement if he or she attends a school that provides elementary or secondary education as determined under the law of the state in which the school is located. See Act § 202(d)(7)(A), (C)(i); 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a). You have asked an online school can qualify as an educational institution under the laws of the states within the Atlanta region. Few states in the Atlanta region have specific provisions allowing on-line schools. Rather the states tend to provide general guidelines for what they recognize as an educational institution and some on-line schools might satisfy those guidelines. It is important to note, however, that other on-line schools may not qualify. As with other types of schools, each case will require an individual determination based on the facts as presented. Following is a review of each of the eight states within the Atlanta region.

DISCUSSION

Alabama:

Alabama recognizes four types of educational entities: public schools, private schools, church schools, or instruction from a competent private tutor. See Ala. Code § 16-28-3 (2009) (requiring attendance of every child between the ages of seven and sixteen years, with limited exceptions, at one of these educational entities). Alabama contemplates teacher-assisted online learning, and requires among its teaching standards that teachers have knowledge of the wide range of technologies to support and enhance instruction, including distance learning and online learning opportunities. See Ala. Admin. Code r. 290-3-3-03, Standard 3.4(ii) (2008). Alabama offers residents the opportunity to take courses offered by public schools online for free. See http://distancelearn.about.com/od/virtualhighschools/a/AlabamaPublic.htm (visited Feb. 16, 2010); http://accessdl.state.al.us/ (visited Feb. 16, 2010). With the exception of one credit hour for physical education, a half credit hour for arts education, and a state-required graduation examination, the offerings online via either Web-Based Instruction or Video Conferencing Instruction can enable a student to graduate from high school in Alabama while attending school online for grades 9, 10, 11, and 12. See http://accessdl.state.al.us/courses.html (indicating course offerings) (visited Feb. 16, 2010). We did not find any Alabama statute, regulation or administrative code regarding the requirements for attending or graduating from high school in Alabama through the online courses outlined in the above-noted websites. We also did not find any Alabama statute, regulation, or administrative code regarding whether taking online courses not offered by Alabama public schools, including entities outside Alabama, might satisfy the standards of a school under Alabama law.

A private school in Alabama must hold a certificate issued by the State Superintendent of Education, see Ala. Code § 16-28-1(1) (2009), and must be licensed to operate in the state, see Ala. Code § 16-46-5 (2009) (denoting that a private secondary and K-12 school must be licensed to operate, and such licensure includes fees, a statement of financial stability, and payment of a surety bond). A private school certificate must show it conforms to the following requirements: 1) the teachers must be certified by the State Superintendent of Education; 2) instruction must be offered in the several branches of study required to be taught in the public schools of Alabama; 3) English must be used in instructing the students; and 4) a register of attendance must be kept that clearly indicates every absence of each child from school for a half day or more during each school day of the school year. See Ala. Code § 16-28-1(1); see also Ala. Admin. Code r. 290-3-2-.02 (2008) (denoting teacher certification requirements). We found nothing in Alabama law prohibiting a private (non-church) school, which meets these requirements, from providing online education in Alabama.

Church schools are “schools . . . operated as a ministry of a local church, group of churches, denomination, and/or association of churches on a nonprofit basis which do not receive any state or federal funding.” Ala. Code § 16-28-1(2). A child attending a church school is exempt from the requirements of compulsory attendance provided the child complies with the procedure in section 16-28-7. See Ala. Code § 16-28-3. “The enrollment and attendance of a child in a church school must be filed with the local public school superintendent by the parent . . . on a form provided by the superintendent . . . which shall be countersigned by the administrator of the church school.” Ala. Code § 16-28-7 (2009). Additionally, the principal teacher of the church school must keep an attendance register for each day of the school year. See Ala. Code § 16-28-8 (2009). In an opinion dated January 3, 1997, the Alabama Attorney General stated:

There is no statutory authority authorizing or requiring any state or local authority to regulate church schools, which may conduct classes as they see fit. There is no requirement that church school teachers be certified or that a church school be accredited by the state or any private agency. No state or government authority has the authority to regulate a church school. . . .

Other than the state laws requiring parents to report attendance and for church schools to report if a student is no longer in attendance at such a church school, there is no provision of Alabama law that permits or requires any state or local authority to regulate a church school.

246 Ala. Op. Atty. Gen. 14, 1997 WL 1053990 (Ala. A.G.). Thus, the parents of a student attending an online church school might need to comply only with Alabama attendance reporting requirements.

Alabama also recognizes that a child can receive instruction from a competent private tutor. See Ala. Code § 16-28-5 (2009). The tutor must be a state certified teacher, teach “for at least three hours a day for 140 days each calendar year, between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.,” file with the county superintendent a statement describing subjects taught and period of instruction, keep a register of the child’s work showing daily hours of instruction and attendance, and make such reports as the State Board of Education may require. Id. To obtain a high school diploma, a child must have credits in such courses as English, algebra, geometry, biology, social studies, physical education, and arts education. See Ala. Admin. Code r. 290-3-1-.02(8) (2008). Contents of courses not defined in the state course of study must be approved by the local board of education. Id. Alabama does not appear to address whether instruction by a competent private tutor could be provided online, but a student obtaining online tutoring from an Alabama certified teacher might qualify as online coursework in the state.

Florida:

Florida law recognizes five types of educational entities: public schools, private schools, parochial, religious or denominational schools, home education programs, and private tutoring programs. See Fla. Stat. Ann. § 1003.01(13) (West 2009). Florida law further states that parents of public school students may seek the public school choice option available to their child. See Fla. Stat. Ann. § 1002.20(6)(a) (West 2009). Public school choices include enrollment at the Florida Virtual School. See id. Thus, Florida allows students to attend public school online. The Florida Virtual School was established to develop and deliver online and distance learning education. See Fla. Stat. Ann. § 1002.37(1)(a) (West 2009). It is administratively housed within the Commissioner of Education’s Office of Technology and Information Services. See id. The mission of the Florida Virtual School is to provide students with technology-based educational opportunities to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed. See id. at (b). This school serves any student in the state who meets the profile for success in this educational delivery context, with priority given to: (1) students who need expanded access to courses to meet their educational goals, such as home education students and students in inner-city and rural high schools who do not have access to higher-level courses; and (2) students seeking accelerated access to obtain a high school diploma at least one semester early. See id.

A “private school” in Florida is a nonpublic school defined as:

an individual, association, copartnership, or corporation, or department, division, or section of such organizations, that designates itself as an educational center that includes kindergarten or a higher grade or as an elementary, secondary, business, technical, or trade school below college level or any organization that provides instructional services . . . . A private school may be a parochial, religious, denominational, for-profit, or nonprofit school.

Fla. Stat. Ann. § 1002.01(2) (West 2009).

Florida has state attendance requirements for private school students. See Fla. Stat. Ann. § 1002.42(7) (West 2009) (citing Fla. Stat. Ann. §§ 1003.01(13), 1003.21(1) (West 2009)). The attendance requirements are defined by law and the rules of the State Board of Education. See Fla. Stat. Ann. § 1003.01(13) (West 2009). The Florida State Board of Education rules describe the following school attendance requirements in a non-public school:

(1) One hundred eighty (180) actual school days determined as prescribed by Section 1011.60(2), Florida Statutes, or

(2) A minimum of one hundred seventy (170) actual school days and the hourly equivalent of one hundred eighty (180) actual school days, determined as prescribed below:

(a) Kindergarten: Five hundred forty (540) net instructional hours.

(b) Grades 1-3: Seven hundred twenty (720) net instructional hours.

(c) Grades 4-12: Nine hundred (900) net instructional hours.

Fla. Admin. Code Ann. r. 6A-1.09512 (2010). Keeping and preparing attendance records applies to “all officials, teachers, and other employees in parochial, religious, denominational, and private schools . . . .” Fla. Stat. Ann. § 1002.42(4) (West 2009). Florida law does not appear to prohibit a private school from providing education to students online, nor does it appear to specifically allow such instruction.

A student in Florida may achieve regular school attendance as by attending a private tutoring program, provided the person tutoring the student: (a) holds a valid Florida certificate to teach the subjects or grades in which instruction is given; (b) keeps all records and makes all reports required by the state and district school board and makes regular reports on the attendance of students; and (c) requires students to be in actual attendance for the minimum length of time as prescribed by statute. See Fla. Code. Ann. § 1002.43(1) (West 2009). The statutory requirement for a minimum school term is that all schools must operate “for a term of 180 actual teaching days or the equivalent on an hourly basis as specified by rules of the State Board of Education each school year.” Fla. Stat. Ann. § 1011.60(2) (West 2009). Florida law does not appear to prohibit a private tutor from providing education to students online, nor does it appear to specifically allow such instruction.

Georgia:

Georgia recognizes three types of educational entities: public schools, private schools, and home study programs. See Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-690(a) (West 2009). Georgia also recognizes online learning through the Georgia Virtual School. See Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-319.1 (West 2009). The Georgia Virtual School is fully accredited and offers a full high school curriculum with advanced placement and college prep level courses and a limited middle school curriculum. See http://www.gavirtualschool.org/ (visited Feb. 20, 2010). Under a tuition program, students may take additional courses to enhance their course of study or to catch up if they have fallen behind. See id. All courses are taught by certified teachers and the Georgia Virtual School offers courses free of charge to all Georgia students who are taking courses as part of their state reported school day. See Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-319.1. Students from public school are given priority over private school students for enrollment in Georgia Virtual School courses. See id. The Georgia Virtual School also provides special programs for out-of-state students and to hospital/homebound students at no cost if funded seats are available or with the payment of tuition in an unlimited capacity. See http://www.gavirtualschool.org/Home/ParentInformation/ tabid/141/Default.aspx (visited Feb. 20, 2010) (viewing subtabs for Out of State Students and Hospital Homebound or Special Education Students). This program allows students to either take courses online during their regular school day or take additional courses after regular school hours or during the summer. See http://www.gavirtualschool.org/Home/SchoolInformation/ PublicSchools/tabid/142/Default.aspx (visited Feb. 20, 2010). Further, each school must have a person appointed to approve all courses a student requests to take with Georgia Virtual School. See http://www.gavirtualschool.org/Default.aspx?tabid=149 (visited Feb. 20, 2010). The schools must have a monitor who works in tandem with the online instructor and provides the student with face-to-face support, necessary technical and academic guidance, and resources at the local school, is responsible for coordinating required tests, and acts as a liaison between the local school and Georgia Virtual School. See id. The local school must agree to accept and transcribe the students’ grades at the end of the semester. See id. The Georgia Virtual School does not grant credit itself. See id. Thus, a student attending the Georgia Virtual School must also be enrolled in a “brick and mortar” school to convert any virtual course credits to accepted transcript credits on the student’s official school record.

As indicated above, private school students may also attend the Georgia Virtual School, albeit with lower priority. See Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-319.1. A “private school” in Georgia must: (1) have providing education as its primary purpose; (2) be privately controlled and operate on a continuing basis; (3) provide instruction each 12 months for the equivalent of 180 school days of education with each school day consisting of at least four and one-half school hours; (4) provide a basic academic educational program that includes reading, language arts, mathematics, social studies, and science; (5) provide to the school superintendent of each local public school district which has residents enrolled in the private school with a list of the name, age, and residence of each resident so enrolled and provide monthly updates of students who enroll or terminate enrollment in the private school; and (6) meet local health and safety standards. See Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-690(b). Religious schools are also considered private schools and are subject to the same requirements. See id. at (b)(1). Georgia law does not appear to prohibit private schools from providing online or internet education apart from the Georgia Virtual School. However, Georgia law does not appear to specifically allow a private school to provide classes online.

The requirements for home schooling indicate parents or guardians may teach their children at home in a home study program, provided the parent(s) or guardian satisfies certain requirements. See Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-690(c). Parents may teach their own children and not those children of others, but parents may also employ a tutor. See id. at (c)(3). Georgia law does not appear to contemplate online teaching of a child by his or her parent located elsewhere or an online tutor hired by the parents, but nor does it explicitly prohibit such methods of education. We note the Georgia Virtual School provides special programs for home school students with the payment of tuition costs. See http://www.gavirtualschool.org/Home/ParentInformation/tabid/141/Default. aspx (visited Feb. 20, 2010) (viewing subtab for Home School Students). However, because the Georgia Virtual School does not give credits, the student attending such courses would have to apply to receive credit for such courses from the local school board, as would any other student.

Kentucky:

With certain exceptions, parents, guardians, or other persons having custody or charge over any child between the ages of six (6) and sixteen (16) must send the child to a regular public day school or to the public school that the board of education of the district makes provision for the child to attend. See Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 159.010(1) (West 2009). A child within the compulsory school age is exempt from the requirement of attending a regular public day school if the child: (a) has graduated from an accredited or an approved four (4) year high school; (b) is enrolled and in regular attendance in a private, parochial, or church regular day school; (c) is fewer than seven (7) years old and is enrolled and in regular attendance in a private kindergarten-nursery school; (d) has a physical or mental condition that prevents or renders inadvisable attendance at school or application to study; (e) is enrolled and in regular attendance in private, parochial, or church school programs for exceptional children; or (f) is enrolled and in regular attendance in a state-supported program for exceptional children. See Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 159.030(1) (West 2009). Thus, Kentucky recognizes a variety of school programs in addition to regular public school.

Within its laws for special school programs, Kentucky has created the Kentucky Virtual High School (KVHS), which involves secondary-level instructional programs or courses offered by the Kentucky Department of Education through the Internet and other online, computer-based methods. See Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 158.007(11) (West 2009); see also http://www.kyvs.org/ webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_id=_104_1 (visited Mar. 8, 2010). Students may take advanced-placement courses through the KVHS. See Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 158.622, 158.847, 160.348 (West 2009). Also, children confined to home or the hospital may use the KVHS to continue course credit. See 704 Ky. Admin. Regs. 7:120 § 4(3)-(4) (2009). However, instruction through the KVHS for confined students is in addition to a minimum of two (2) visits with the confined student per week lasting at least one (1) hour each. See id. at § 4(4). This regulation, however, does not define the substance of what these “visits” must entail or whether they are by a teacher or an administrative representative of the school. A student may be in attendance if the he or she is participating in an offsite virtual high school class or block. See 702 Ky. Admin. Regs. 7-125 § 1(4)(c) (2009). However, to graduate from high school, each student must complete an individual learning plan that emphasizes career development and must have a total of at least twenty-two (22) credits, and after the graduating class of 2012, each student must have demonstrated performance-based competency in technology. See 704 Ky. Admin. Regs. 3:305 §§ 1-2 (2009).

Private and parochial schools must at all times be open to inspection by directors of pupil personnel and officials of the Department of Education. See Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 159.040 (West 2009). To ensure compliance with its compulsory attendance law, Kentucky requires each private, parochial, or church regular day school to notify the local board of education of those students in attendance at the school. See Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 159.030(1)(b), 159.040, 159.160 (West 2009). However, if a school declines to notify the local board of education of those students in attendance, that school must notify each student’s parent or legal guardian in writing and the parent or legal guardian must then give proper notice to the local board of education. See Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 159.030(1)(b) (2009). Further, any private, parochial, or church school may voluntarily comply with curriculum, certification, and textbook standards established by the Kentucky Board of Education and be certified upon application to the board by such schools. See Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 156.160(4) (West 2009); 704 Ky. Admin. Regs. 10:022 § 3 (2009). Further, private and parochial schools must teach courses in the English language and offer instruction in the several branches of study required to be taught in the public schools of the state. See Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 158.080 (West 2009). Except in those school districts operating a year-round school program, the term of the private or parochial school must not be for a shorter period in each year than the term of the public school provided in the district in which the child attending the school resides. See id. In school districts that operate a year-round school program, the minimum term of private and parochial schools must be one hundred eighty-five (185) days. See id. Kentucky law is silent on whether or not a private, parochial, or church school may provide online education.

Mississippi:

A parent, guardian, or custodian of a child in Mississippi must cause his or her child to enroll in and attend a public school or legitimate nonpublic school for the period that the child is of compulsory school age, except in certain limited circumstances. See Miss. Code Ann. § 37-13-91(3) (West 2009). The limited circumstances when a child is not compelled to attend a public or legitimate non-public school include when a child is: (a) physically, mentally or emotionally incapable of attending school as determined by an appropriate school official based upon sufficient medical documentation; (b) enrolled in and pursuing a course of special education, remedial education, or education for handicapped or physically or mentally disadvantaged children; or (c) being educated in a legitimate home instruction program. See Miss. Code Ann. § 37-13-91(3)(a)-(c).

Mississippi has also created the Mississippi Virtual Public School (MVPS) Program. See Miss. Code Ann. § 37-163-3(2) (West 2009); see also 36-000-112 Miss. Code R. pt. I (Weil 2009). The intent of this school is to provide Mississippi families with an alternative choice to access additional educational resources to improve academic achievement. See Miss. Code Ann. § 37-163-3(2) (West 2009); see also 36-000-112 Miss. Code R. pt. I. The MVPS is a public school and treatment and resources on par with other public schools in the state. See id. The MVPS’ website indicates it is a web-based educational service offered by the Mississippi Department of Education to provide Mississippi students with access to a wider range of coursework, greater flexibility in scheduling, and an opportunity to develop their capacities as independent learners. See http://www.mvps.mde.k12.ms.us/about.html (visited Mar. 7, 2010); see also 36-000-112 Miss. Code R. pt. I (Weil 2009). All students in grades 9 through 12 have access to free online courses through MVPS, with priority given to juniors and seniors. See http://www.mvps.mde. k12.ms.us/about.html (visited Mar. 7, 2010). However, the MVPS does not offer online courses in subjects that are tied to standardized subject-area tests, such as algebra I, biology I, English II, or U.S. history -- students may take non-core content courses for elective credit only. See id. The goals of the MVPS program are to provide additional Advanced Placement (AP) course options to school districts, offer students an alternative to traditional learning, enhance educational technology use in the schools, and assist school districts in offering courses in subject areas where teachers are limited or nonexistent. See id. The MVPS targets a variety of students from the highly gifted to the disadvantaged for its online courses. See id. In particular, the MVPS is designed to enable public schools to support students who are unable to attend school for medical or other reasons, students who are interested in taking AP courses or other courses not offered in their school, and students who need intervention or accommodations or are in alternative schools. See id. As of 2010, it appears that the MVPS only provides courses for students in high school, see http://www.mvps.mde.k12.ms.us/spring2010.html (visited Mar. 7, 2010), and requires students to have adequate keyboard skills, see http://www.mvps.mde.k12. ms.us/faq.html (visited Mar. 7, 2010). Through the MVPS program, public school students in Mississippi may take some, but not all, courses online.

A “nonpublic school” in Mississippi is an institution for the teaching of children, consisting of a physical plant, whether owned or leased, including a home, instructional staff members, and students, which is in session each school year. See Miss. Code Ann. § 37-13-91(2)(i) (West 2009). This definition includes, but is not limited to, private, church, parochial, and home instruction programs. See id. The Mississippi Board of Education may accredit non-public schools if requested. See Miss. Code Ann. § 37-17-7 (West 2009). Such accreditation of non-public schools is outlined in the Mississippi Administrative Code. See 36-000-070 Miss. Code R. §§ 1.0-10.5 (Weil 2009). Otherwise, nonpublic schools in Mississippi may be accredited by one or more nonpublic school association(s) or group(s). See Miss. Code Ann. § 37-17-9 (West 2009). Finally, Mississippi has established a program to provide for financial assistance to children attending nonsectarian private schools. See Miss. Code Ann. § 37-51-1 et seq. (West 2009).

The Mississippi Legislature has provided that private education providers may be selected by the State Board of Education to operate virtual school programs in the state, which will be overseen by the State Department of Education. See Miss. Code Ann. § 37-163-3(2) (West 2009). Thus, any private school (private, church, parochial, and home instruction programs, see Miss. Code Ann. § 37-13-91(2)(i) (West 2009)) may apply for approval to operate a virtual school in Mississippi. See Miss. Code Ann. § 37-163-3(2). Also, this law would appear to allow a private entity not already operating a private school in Mississippi to apply and obtain approval to operate a virtual school in Mississippi. See id.

North Carolina:

North Carolina provides for free public education throughout the state for all students. See N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 115C-1 (West 2009). Public schools statutes include provisions for education to students with disabilities, see N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 115C-107.6 (West 2009), and a system of charter schools to improve learning opportunities, see N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 115C-238.29 (West 2009). Also, North Carolina has a goal of improving education, one method of which is to establish a virtual high school. See N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 116C-4 (West 2009). To that end, the Governor of North Carolina in 2002 established a commission to establish the North Carolina Virtual Public School (NCVPS). See http://ncvps.org/about/history/ (visited Feb. 23, 2010). The purpose of the NCVPS is to provide courses that students cannot take at their local schools, to augment a student’s local school’s program of study. See id. The program also allows home-bound or hospital-bound students to remain on schedule to graduate on time or enable students to graduate from high school in three years. See id. Students are taught by North Carolina-certified teachers and the grades that they earn in their NCVPS course will transfer to their local school and become part of their academic record. See http://ncvps.org/parentstudent/ (visited Feb. 23. 2010). This program was established to offer high school courses, but later expanded to add courses for middle school students and to provide college courses for high school students seeking to earn college credits. See http://ncvps.org/about/history/ (visited Feb. 23, 2010). Courses at the NCVPS are available at no cost to all students in North Carolina public schools, Department of Defense schools, and schools operated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. See id.

North Carolina recognizes three types of non-public schools: private church schools or school of religious charters, qualified non-public schools, and home schools. See N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. §§ 115C-547, 115C-555, 115C-563 (West 2009). Qualified non-public schools have one or more of the following characteristics: (1) the school is accredited by the State Board of Education; (2) the school is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges of Schools; (3) the school is an active member of the North Carolina Association of Independent Schools; and/or (4) the school receives no funding from the State of North Carolina. See N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 115C-555. While recognizing the separation of church and state clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, see N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 115C-547, North Carolina law requires that both religious schools and qualifying non-public schools comply with certain attendance, health, safety, and minimum testing requirements, see N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. §§ 115C-548-50, 115C-556-58 (West 2009). Each school must make and maintain annual attendance and disease immunization records for each pupil enrolled and regularly attending classes. See N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. §§ 115C-548, 115C-556 (West 2009). The school must operate on a regular schedule during at least nine calendar months of the year, excluding reasonable holidays and vacations. See id. The courses of instruction must run concurrently with the term of the public school in the district and extend for at least as long a term. See id. The school must annually administer a nationally standardized test or other nationally standardized equivalent test measuring achievement in certain academic areas to all enrolled students in grades three, six, nine, and eleven. See N.C. Gen Stat. Ann. §§ 115C-549, 115C-550, 115C-557 (West 2009). Furthermore, no church or qualified non-public school that complies with the applicable statutes is subject to any other education-related law except that it must comply with state fire, safety, sanitation, and immunization requirements. See N.C. Gen. Stat. Ann. §§ 115C-554, 115C-562 (West 2009). Students attending private church schools/school of religious charters or qualified non-public schools are not eligible to attend the NCVPS or register for its classes. See http://ncvps.org/about/history/. North Carolina law does not appear to prohibit a private church, religious organization, or non-public school from offering educational instruction online. However, North Carolina law does not appear to specifically allow a non-public school to provide online instruction.

South Carolina:

South Carolina law provides that all parents shall cause their children to regularly attend school from the school year in which the child is five before September 1 until the child attains his or her seventeenth birthday or graduates from high school. See S.C. Code Ann. § 59-65-10(a) (2009). The school the child attends must be (1) a public or private school approved by the State Board of Education; (2) a member school of the South Carolina Independent Schools’ Association or some similar organization; (3) a parochial, denominational, or church-related school; or (4) another program that has been approved by the State Board of Education. See id.

Under South Carolina law, the terms “private school” means a school established by an agency other than the state, which is primarily supported by non-public funds, and is operated by individuals other than publicly-elected or appointed officials. See S.C. Code Ann. § 59-1-110 (2009). An attorney general opinion states that in areas where the compulsory school attendance act is applicable, the State Board of Education possesses authority to establish minimum standards to which private schools must adhere in order to gain Board approval. See 1967-68 S.C. Op. Atty. Gen. No 2585, p. 291. Our thorough review of South Carolina laws and regulations did not reveal minimum standards of attendance for private schools established by the State Board of Education. However, South Carolina law indicates all private schools must report to the county superintendent in which the school is located the number of students receiving instruction, the number of students in regular attendance, the number of teachers employed and, other facts that show the grade and amount of educational work performed in the private school. See S.C. Code Ann. § 59-13-130 (2009). These laws seem to apply to all private schools, including those run by churches, synagogues, religious sects, or other religious organization or institutions.

South Carolina law includes a more limited definition of private school in the context of providing grants to students to attend private or independent elementary or high schools that are not operated or controlled by any church, synagogue, sect or other religious organization or institution. See S.C. Code Ann. § 59-41-10(c) (2009).

In this regard, South Carolina provides that any student who desires to enroll in private school, that is, any non-religious private school, is entitled to receive a grant in the amount equal to the cost per pupil as certified by the governor. See S.C. Code Ann. § 59-41-20 (2009).

As an alternative to public or private schools, parents have three options in South Carolina for home schooling. See S.C. Code Ann. §§ 59-65-40(A); 59-65-45; 59-65-47 (2009). Under the first home schooling option, parents may home school their children if the district board of trustees of the district in which the child resides approves the instruction. See S.C. Code Ann. § 59-65-40(A). To receive the district board of trustees’ approval, a home schooling program must meet the following criteria:

(1) the parent (a) holds at least a high school diploma or the equivalent general educational development (GED) certificate or (b) has earned a baccalaureate degree;

(2) the instructional day is at least four and one-half hours, excluding lunch and recesses, and the instructional year is at least one-hundred eighty days;

(3) the curriculum includes, but is not limited to, the basic instructional areas of reading, writing, mathematics, science, and social studies and in grades seven through twelve, composition and literature;

(4) as evidence that a student is receiving regular instruction, the parent shall present a system for maintaining and maintain the following records for inspection upon reasonable notice by a representative of the school district:

a) a plan book, diary, or other written record indicating subjects taught and activities in which the student and parent engage;

b) a portfolio of samples of the student’s academic work; and

c) a record of evaluations of the student’s academic progress. A semiannual progress report including attendance records and individualized assessments of the student’s academic progress in each of the basic instructional areas specified in item (3) must be submitted to the school district;

(5) students must have access to library facilities;

(6) students must participate in the annual statewide testing program and the Basic Skills Assessment

Program approved by the State Board of Education for their appropriate grade level. The tests must be administered by a certified school district employee either with public school students or by special arrangement at the student’s place of instruction, at the parent’s option; and

(7) parents must agree in writing to hold the district, the district board of trustees and the district’s employees harmless for any educational deficiencies of the student sustained as a result of home instruction.

See § 59-65-40(A). These requirements must be met before parents may teach their children at home. See 1991 S.C. Op. Atty. Gen. 36, 1991 WL 474738, at *2-3 (Jan. 22, 1991). This law further provides that at any time the school district determines that the parent is not maintaining the home school program as required, the district board of trustees shall notify the parent to correct the deficiencies within thirty days. See § 59-65-40(A). If the parents do not correct the deficiencies within thirty days, the district board of trustees may withdraw its approval. See id.

The second home schooling option allows parents to teach their children at home “if the instruction is conducted under the auspices of the South Carolina Association of Independent Home Schools.” S.C. Code Ann. § 59-65-45. Under this type of home schooling, the State Department of Education conducts annual reviews of the standards of the South Carolina Association of Independent Home Schools to ensure that, at a minimum, the parents hold at least a high school diploma or GED, the school year is at least 180 days, and the curriculum includes at a minimum instruction in reading, writing, mathematics, science, social studies, and, in grades seven through twelve, composition and literature. See id.

Under the third home schooling option, South Carolina recognizes an alternate form of home education if the instruction is conducted under the auspices of an association for home schools with no more than fifty members. See S.C. Code Ann. § 59-65-47. This type of home schooling has the same requirements as those under the South Carolina Association of Independent Home Schools, except that additional parent reporting is also required. See id.

South Carolina has established the South Carolina Virtual School Program. See S.C. Code Ann. §§ 59-16-10 to 59-16-80 (2009). Any public, private, or home school student residing in South Carolina, who is twenty-one years of age or younger, is eligible to enroll in the South Carolina Virtual School Program. See S.C. Code Ann. § 59-16-15(B). Students may be awarded a maximum of three online initial credits in a school year, and no more than twelve online initial credits throughout high school, but the governing body of the student’s school district may grant a waiver to exceed the established limit. See S.C. Code Ann. § 59-16-15(C). The student’s local school district transcribes the student’s grade to his or her permanent record and transcript, whereas home school students and private school students receive a certified grade report indicating date, course, and final numeric grade from the South Carolina Virtual School Program or an entity approved by the State Board of Education. See S.C. Code Ann. § 59-16-15(D). Through this program, any student in South Carolina may take some of his or her instruction online. However, it does not appear that such instruction can supplant education through traditional public, private, or home school programs. South Carolina law does not specifically address whether private, church, or home schools can offer or employ online schooling independent of the South Carolina Virtual School Program.

Tennessee:

Under Tennessee law, every parent, guardian, or other legal custodian residing within the state having control or charge of any child between five and seventeen years of age, must cause the child to attend public or non-public school. See Tenn. Code. Ann. § 49-6-3001(c)(1) (West 2009). Tennessee has also established virtual education programs. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 49-16-101 to 49-16-105. Participation in a virtual education program by a student is at the discretion of the local education agency in which the student is enrolled or zoned to attend; however, only students who were enrolled in and attended a public school during the previous school year are eligible to participate in a virtual public education program. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-16-105. Students who are receiving hospital or homebound instruction also are eligible to participate. See id. Given these provisions, a student may receive part of all of his or her education through virtual education programs. The only local jurisdictions that appear to have instituted virtual education programs in Tennessee are Hamilton County, in which Chattanooga, Tennessee, is located, and Putnam County. See http://hcschools.org/vhs/ (visited Mar. 3, 2010); http://www.ena.com/files/Customer_Success_Stories/CSS10_Virtual Learning_PutnamCoTN.pdf (visited Mar. 3, 2010). The Hamilton County Virtual School (HCVS) offers core courses (Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies) to students in kindergarten through eighth grade and all core courses and several elective courses to students in grades nine through twelve. See http://hcschools.org/vhs/ (visited Mar. 3, 2010). This school also offers Virtual Dual Enrollment courses to high school juniors and seniors. See id. Under this program, the HCVS works with a student’s school by reporting grades to his or her school, which is then responsible for assigning credit, as appropriate. See id. Enrollees in the HCVS must obtain the principal’s signature on all registration requests in order to assure that the grades will be accepted for credit by that school. See id. Home-schooled students may have grades sent to their umbrella organizations or other appropriate credit-granting entity, if desired. See id. The Putnam County virtual learning program began more recently in January 2008, and offers courses similar to those offered students in Hamilton County. See http://www.ena.com/files/ Customer_Success_Stories/ CSS10_VirtualLearning_PutnamCoTN.pdf (visited Mar. 3, 2010). Thus, at least in Hamilton and Putnam Counties, Tennessee, children may obtain some form of online schooling.

In Tennessee, a “private school” is one that is accredited by, or a member of, an organization or association approved by the Tennessee State Board of Education as an organization accrediting or setting academic requirements in schools. See Tenn. Code. Ann. § 49-6-3001(c)(3)(A)(iii) (West 2009). Students may transfer among public schools or among Category I, II, or III private schools or Category IV non-public schools without loss of credit for completed work. See Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. § 0520-01-03.03 (2009); Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. § 0520-07-01.03 (2009). Category I schools are approved individually by the State Department of Education; Category II schools belong to an agency whose accreditation process is approved by the State Board of Education; Category III schools are regionally accredited by one of five accrediting organizations; and Category IV schools are “church related” schools. See Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. § 0520-02-01.01(1)(a)-(d) (2009).

Tennessee allows home schooling, church-related private schools, and also a hybrid, i.e., home schools affiliated with church-related schools. See Tenn. Code. Ann. § 49-6-3050(a) (West 2009). A church school is defined as a school operated by a denominational, parochial, or other bona fide church organization that meets the standards of accreditation or membership in various organizations. See Tenn. Code. Ann. § 49-50-801 (West 2009). The state board of education and local boards of education cannot regulate the selection of faculty or textbooks or the establishment of a curriculum in church-related schools. See id. at (b); accord Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 0520-07-02.05(1) (2009). Tennessee regulations only require religious schools to: (a) comply with all city, county, and state rules and regulations, and codes regarding planning of new buildings, alterations, and safety; (b) comply with all rules and regulations of the Tennessee Department of Health and Environment regarding construction, maintenance, and operation of the school plant; (c) observe all fire safety regulations and procedures promulgated by the Tennessee Fire Marshal’s Office; (d) comply with the requirements that each child enrolled in school be vaccinated against disease; and (e) comply with the requirement that the names, ages, and addresses of all pupils in attendance be reported to the superintendent of the public school system in which the student resides. See Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs. 0520-07-02.05(2) (2009) (citing Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 49-6-3007, 49-6-5001 (West 2009) (regarding vaccination and attendance-reporting)).

Generally, a parent-teacher home school has extensive attendance, testing, and credential requirements. See Tenn. Code. Ann. § 49-6-3050(b). Such parents must:

(1) provide notice to the local director of schools of the parent-teacher’s intent to conduct a home school and submit the name, number, age and grade level of children involved, the location of the school, the curriculum to be offered and the proposed hours of instruction, and the qualifications of the parent-teacher;

(2) maintain attendance records, subject to inspection by the local director of schools, and submission of these records to the director of schools at the end of each school year;

(3) instruct for at least four (4) hours per day for the same number of instructional days as are required by state law for public schools;

(4) possess a high school diploma or GED by the parent-teacher conducting classes in kindergarten through grade eight;

(5) administer state board approved standardized tests required of public school students for the children’s respective grades;

(6) consult with the director of schools if the home school student falls three (3) to six (6) months behind the home school student’s appropriate grade level, based on the standard testing, design a remedial program for any child that falls (6) to nine (9) months behind the home school student’s appropriate grade level; or enroll the child in public school if the home school student falls more than one (1) year behind the home school student’s appropriate grade level; (7) possess at least a baccalaureate degree awarded by a college or university accredited by an accrediting agency or association recognized by the state board of education, by a parent-teacher conducting classes in grades nine through twelve (9-12). A parent-teacher may request an exemption from this requirement from the department on a year-to-year basis;

(8) notify in writing to the local director of schools by a parent-teacher conducting classes in grades nine through twelve (9-12) as to whether a college preparatory or general course of education will be taught to the home school student and a description of the courses to be taught in each year;

(9) submit proof to the local director of schools that the home school student has been vaccinated and has received any other health services or examinations as may be required by law generally for children in this state;

(10) Submit by the home school student entering public schools to the evaluation tests if the local system requires the tests, or the tests required by the state board of education for transfer students; and

(11) in the event of the illness of a parent-teacher, or the inadequacy of the parent-teacher to teach a specific subject, employ a tutor, having the same qualifications as a parent-teacher teaching that grade level or course.

See id. However, a home school affiliated with a church-related school, like a church school, has a much shorter and less stringent list of requirements than a parent-teacher home school, 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. Code. Ann. § 49-50-801;

(2) supervises the home school; and

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

See Tenn. Code. Ann. § 49-6-3050(a)(2)(A).

While the two counties mentioned above provide public online schooling, Tennessee law does not specifically address whether private, church-related, or home schools can independently offer or employ online schooling.

Mary Ann Sloan
Regional Chief Counsel

By: Jerome M. Albanese

Assistant Regional Counsel


Footnotes:

[1]

. A State-chartered special school is a charter school operating under the terms of charter between the state Board of Education and the charter petitioner. See Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-2062(1), (16) (West 2016). Once the state Board of Education approves a charter, the school must meet the requirements of its charter, as well as any other applicable state law requirements such as reporting and accountability requirements. See Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-2065 (West 2016).

[2]

. All references in this legal opinion to “C.F.R.” refer to the 2015 version.

[3]

. . All references to the Code of Federal Regulations are to the 2014 version.

[4]

. All references in this legal opinion to “C.F.R.” refer to the 2012 version.

[5]

. A beneficiary also may meet the requirements of attending an “educational institution” if he or she is: 1) instructed in secondary education at home in accordance with the home school law of the State or other jurisdiction in which the beneficiary resides; or 2) in an independent study secondary education program in accordance with the law of the State or other jurisdiction in which the beneficiary student resides which is administered by the local school or school district/jurisdiction. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a)(1), (2).

[6]

. All references to the Ga. Code Ann. are to the West 2012 version.

[7]

. PAG must meet the requirements of its charter, as well as any other applicable state law requirements such as reporting and accountability requirements. See Ga. Code Ann. § 20-2-2065.

[8]

. GCA’s website states that GCA serves grades K-11. Georgia Cyber Academy, Who We Are, Our School at a Glance, http://www.k12.com/gca/who-we-are (visited October 18, 2012). GCA will be expanding to serve Grade 12 in Fall 2013. Georgia Cyber Academy, How it Works (High School), http://www.k12.com/gca/how-it-works/high-school (visited October 18, 2012). As Beneficiary reported he will graduate in May 2014, it seems reasonable to assume he is currently in the eleventh grade.

[9]

. All references to 20 C.F.R. are to the 2012 version unless otherwise noted.

[10]

. All references to the Ga. Code Ann. are to the West 2012 version unless otherwise noted.


To Link to this section - Use this URL:
http://policy.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/1508205012
PR 08205.012 - Georgia - 07/11/2016
Batch run: 07/11/2016
Rev:07/11/2016