TN 39 (02-15)

PR 08205.017 Indiana

A. PR 15-064 Indiana – B~ / Hoosier– Reply

DATE: January 8, 2015   

1. SYLLABUS

Hoosier Academies Virtual School (Hoosier Academies), located in Indianapolis, Indiana, is a tuition-free online public charter school. We assume that public schools in the U.S., including online schools, are educational institutions (EI), absent evidence to the contrary. There is no evidence to the contrary about Hoosier Academies’ EI status and it is, therefore, an EI.

Hoosier Academies requires attendance of 30 hours per week to consider a student full-time. Before withdrawing from Hoosier Academies, the claimant attended the school 25 hours per week, which was not full-time attendance based on the school’s standards and practices. Although the claimant met the Federal full-time attendance standard of at least 20 hours per week, the claimant also needed to meet the school’s full-time attendance standard to meet the State standard. 

2. OPINION

QUESTION PRESENTED

You asked whether Hoosier Academies Virtual School (Hoosier Academies), a tuition-free online public charter school located in Indianapolis, Indiana, may be considered an educational institution (EI) for purposes of awarding child insurance benefits.

For the reasons discussed below, we conclude that Hoosier Academies qualifies as an EI for the purpose of awarding child insurance benefits. We further conclude that claimant does not appear to meet the requirements for full-time attendance. [1]

BACKGROUND

B~ is seeking child insurance benefits (CIB) due to her status as a full-time student at Hoosier Academies.  With her application, the claimant submitted Form SSA-1372-BK dated August 6, 2014 indicating that she was scheduled to attend Hoosier Academies full-time (25 hours per week) since August 2014, and that she expected to graduate in May 2015.  The SSA-1372-BK was certified by Hoosier Academies Academic Administrator C~ on August 6, 2014. 

Hoosier Academies is a tuition-free public virtual charter school authorized by Ball State University, Office of Charter Schools.  As a public school, Hoosier Academies has the same structure, administrative support, oversight, accountability, and state testing requirements of all other Indiana public schools. See Hoosier Academies website, Who We Are (available at www.k12.com/ha/who-we-are (last visited October 21, 2014)). 

DISCUSSION

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

“Elementary or secondary school” is defined as “a school which provides elementary or secondary education, respectively, as determined under the law of the State or other jurisdiction in which it is located.” Section 202(d)(7)(C)(i) of the Act; see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a). The POMS refers to such a school as an “educational institution.” See POMS RS 00205.200A. Under the POMS, it is generally assumed that American public schools are EIs, absent evidence to the contrary; a non-public school cannot be assumed to be an EI. See POMS RS 00205.250B. It does not matter if the school is online, so long as the school meets state law requirements. See POMS RS 00205.295.

POMS RS 00205.295 sets forth agency policy with respect to online schools. It defines an online school as “one that offers Internet-based courses to students.” POMS RS 00205.295A. A child attending an online school may be a full-time student if: (1) the student meets the standards for full-time attendance as defined in RS 00205.300, and (2) the online school operates in accordance with the law of the state in which the online school is located. See POMS RS 00205.295B. The Act defines “full-time elementary or secondary school student” as an individual who is in full-time attendance at an elementary or secondary school, as determined by the Commissioner of Social Security by regulation. See Section 202(d)(7)(a) of the Act; see also 20 C.F.R. §404.367.

Hoosier Academies Qualifies as an Educational Institution

As noted above, to be considered an educational institution, a school must provide elementary or secondary school education as determined under the law of the state or other jurisdiction in which it is located. See Section 202(d)(7)(C)(i) of the Act; 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(a); POMS RS 00205.200A. Hoosier Academies is based in Indiana. To determine whether Hoosier Academies qualifies as an EI, we must examine Indiana law.

Under Indiana law, a “charter school” means a public elementary or secondary school established under Article 24 of the Indiana Code that (1) is nonsectarian and nonreligious; and (2) operates under a charter. I.C. § 20-24-1-4 (2011) (emphasis added). A “virtual charter school” means any charter school, including a conversion charter school, that provides for the delivery of more than fifty percent of instruction to students through: (1) virtual distance learning; (2) online technologies; or (3) computer based instruction. I.C. § 20-24-7-13 (2013).

Charter schools must be open to any student who resides in Indiana and may not establish admission policies or limit student admissions in any manner in which a public school is not permitted to establish admission policies or limit student admissions. I.C. § 20-24-5. Further, although charter schools may receive private donations, they are public schools that receive federal and state funding to cover operating costs. I.C. § 20-24-7; I.C. § 20-24-7-13 (2013); see also Indiana Charter School Board, For Families and Communities, Charter School FAQs (available at www.in.gov/icsb/2447.htm (last visited on October 22, 2014).

Given that Hoosier Academies is a charter school, and therefore a public school according to I.C. § 20-24-1-4 (2011), we must examine we assume it is an EI unless there is any evidence to the contrary. See POMS RS 00205.250B. In this case, there is no evidence contrary to Hoosier Academies’ presumed nature as an EI.

As a charter school authorized by Ball State University (Ball State), Hoosier Academies went through Ball State’s rigorous application process to ensure that the school met high standards of quality public education. This process includes interviews with school organizers, and possible public meetings and additional evaluations. Ultimately, the president of Ball State decides whether to offer a school a charter. Once Hoosier Academies received its charter from Ball State, it underwent annual reviews including site visits to monitor compliance with Ball State requirements and charter school law. See Ball State’s Office of Charter Schools Brochure (available at http://cms.bsu.edu/-/media/WWW/DepartmentalContent/CharterSchool/PDF/Brochure09.pdf) (last visited October 22, 2014).

Further, since Hoosier Academies is a public school in Indiana, it has the same attendance requirements as other Indiana public schools, all students must participate in testing mandated by the state of Indiana, and graduates earn a diploma. See Hoosier Academies FAQ (available at www.k12.com/ha/faqs/general) (last visited October 22, 2014).

Additionally, Hoosier Academies is included on the Indiana Department of Education’s list of public schools for the 2013-2014 school year. See Indiana Department of Education’s School and Corporation Data Reports, General School Information, 2013-14 Indiana School Directory, Updated May 2014 (available at www.doe.in.gov/accountability/find-school-and-corporation-data-reports) (last visited October 22, 2014). Hoosier Academies is also included on Ball State’s list of Charter Schools Authorized by Ball State University, which was last updated in July 2014. See Ball State’s Office of Charter School’s Charter Schools Authorized by Ball State University (available at http://cms.bsu.edu/academics/collegesanddepartments/teachers/schools/charter/charterschool/charterschools) (last visited October 22, 2014).

The information available on websites for Hoosier Academies, Ball State’s Office of Charter Schools, and the Indiana Department of Education, demonstrates that Hoosier Academies is a public charter school as determined under Indiana law and meets the requirements for an EI.

CONCLUSION

For the reasons discussed above, we find that Hoosier Academies qualifies as an EI. In addition, we find that the claimant does not appear to meet both the federal and state attendance requirements. 

Kathryn Caldwell

Acting Regional Chief Counsel,Region V

By: _________ 

Emily S. Cohn

Assistant Regional Counsel

B. PR 12-082 Does Indiana Connections Academy, an online charter high school, qualify as an Educational Institution Under Indiana State Law for purposes of Child’s Insurance Benefits? Claimant: K~, SSN, claim based on SSN -

DATE: September 12, 2011

1. SYLLABUS

Indiana Connections Academy is a public, online charter school that is approved by the Indiana Department of Education. The Academy meets Indiana law requirements for a public 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

INTRODUCTION

This memorandum is in response to your question regarding whether Indiana Connections Academy is an educational institution (EI), and whether the applicant satisfies the federal and state standards for full-time attendance. We find that it is reasonable to conclude that Indiana Connections Academy is an EI and that the applicant is a full-time student there.

BACKGROUND

K~ applied for CIB on the basis that she attended an online charter school, Indiana Connections Academy. Indiana Connections is located in Indiana and K~ is a resident of that state.

DISCUSSION

A CIB applicant must meet two requirements to be considered a full-time student under the Social Security Act. She must be an elementary or secondary school student at an educational institution that qualifies as a school under state law. 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(7)(c)(i); POMS RS 00205.001(A). She must also attend that school full-time. 42 U.S.C. § 402(d)(7)(A); POMS RS 00205.001(A). An online school may be an educational institution for SSA purposes. POMS RS 00205.295(B).

  1. A. 

    Under Indiana Law, Indiana Connections Academy is an EI.

    A school is an EI if it provides elementary or secondary education as determined under the law of the state or other jurisdiction in which it is located. POMS RS 00205.200(A). SSA assumes that public high schools in the United States are educational institutions, unless there is evidence to the contrary. POMS RS 00205.250(B)(1).

    Indiana Connections Academy is approved as a charter school by the Indiana Department of Education. In Indiana, an approved charter school is a public school. Ind. Code § 20-24-1-4.

    Given that Indiana Connections Academy is a public school, we can reasonably infer that the school is in accordance with Indiana Law. Therefore, it is reasonable to find that it is an EI.

  2. B. 

    K~ is in full-time attendance at Indiana Connections Academy.

    In order to be a full-time elementary or secondary school student, the student must satisfy both federal and state standards. 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b),(c); POMS RS 00205.300(A).To be considered full-time, a student must (1) be in full-time attendance in a day or evening non-correspondence course of at least 13 weeks duration; (2) carry a subject load considered full-time for day students under the institution’s standards and practices; and (3) attend school at least twenty hours a week. 20 C.F.R. § 404.367(b),(c); POMS RS 00205.300(B),(C).

    Indiana Connections Academy certified that K~ is a full-time student, attends approximately 30 hours per week and that the program is of at least 13 weeks duration. Thus, under the federal and state standards, K~ is in full-time attendance at Indiana Connections Academy.

CONCLUSION

In sum, we conclude that it is reasonable to consider Indiana Connections Academy an EI and that K~ is a full-time student there.

Grace M. Kim

Regional Chief Counsel

By: _________  

Diana Swisher Andsager

Assistant Regional Counsel


Footnotes:

[1]

You did not ask whether the claimant met the attendance requirements. See 42 U.S.C. §402(d)(1)(B) (requiring “full-time” attendance).  In addition to attending a qualifying educational institution, a student must meet both state and federal attendance requirements.  POMS RS 00205.300(A). Federal regulations provide at 20 C.F.R. §404.367 that a student attends full-time if his or her scheduled attendance is at least 20 hours per week in at least a 13-week course, barring certain exceptions. 20 C.F.R. §404.367(b), (c); see also  POMS RS 00205.300.  State attendance requirements are met if a student is considered full-time based on the school’s standards and practices.  POMS RS 000205.300(B).  On the SSA-1372-BK, Academic Advisor C~ certified that the claimant is scheduled to attend Hoosier Academies for 25 hours per week, with a course of study of at least 13 weeks. While this certification did not offer any specific insight to Hoosier Academies’ standards and practices regarding full-time status, C~ certified the claimant’s assertion that her attendance would be ‘full-time’ at 25 hours per week.  When speaking to C~, however, he confirmed that attendance at 25 hours per week was not full-time, and that a student needed to attend at least 30 hours per week to reach full-time status. As such, we cannot reasonably conclude that the claimant’s attendance at 25 hours per week is considered full-time attendance pursuant to Hoosier Academies’ standards and practices. Accordingly, the claimant does not meet the requirements for “full-time” attendance under both the Federal and State standards. Regardless, C~ confirmed that records from Hoosier Academies showed that Ms. Born withdrew from Hoosier Academies on October 14, 2014 and moved to the state of Georgia.


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PR 08205.017 - Indiana - 02/04/2015
Batch run: 02/04/2015
Rev:02/04/2015