In January 2010, OGC was asked whether the states in Region III recognize online schools
in order to determine whether these schools are educational institutions for SSA purposes,
as defined in POMS RS 00205.200.
Our updated research indicates that three states in Region III, Pennsylvania, Maryland,
and Virginia, now recognize online schools as educational institutions. Pennsylvania,
however, recognizes only one type of online school—cyber charter schools that have
been approved by the state.
Under POMS RS 00205.295, a child attending an online school may be a full-time student if the child meets
SSA’s standards for full-time attendance; the law of the state in which the student
resides recognizes online schools as educational institutions; the online school the
student attends meets the requirements of state law in which the student lives; and
the student meets all other requirements for benefits.
Pennsylvania (PR 08205.042)
There has been no change in Pennsylvania law with regard to online schools since January
2010. Pennsylvania recognizes one type of online school as an educational institution—cyber
charter schools that have been approved by Pennsylvania’s Department of Education.
On July 1, 2002, Pennsylvania established cyber charter schools under 24 Pa. Cons.
Stat. Ann. § 17-1745-A. Pennsylvania defines a cyber charter school as “an independent
public school established and operated under a charter from the Department of Education
and in which the school uses technology in order to provide a significant portion
of its curriculum and to deliver a significant portion of instruction to its students
through the Internet or other electronic means.”
24 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 17-1703-A. The curriculum of a cyber charter school must
meet the requirements of 22 Pa Code, Ch. 4, et seq. (or any subsequent regulations
promulgated to replace it), dealing with academic standards and assessment for schools,
24 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 17-1747-A(1). Pennsylvania does not recognize any other
type of online school as an educational institution.
Delaware (PR 8205.009)
There has been no change in Delaware law with regard to online schools since January
2010. Our research revealed that Delaware does not recognize online schools as educational
institutions. Delaware’s requirements for schools are outlined at 14 Del. Code Regs
§ 500, et seq., dealing with state standards for curriculum and instruction.
Maryland (PR 08205.023)
Effective September 1, 2011, the Maryland state legislature approved legislation establishing
virtual schools. See MD EDUC, §§ 7-1401-1408. Under Maryland law, county boards of education are permitted
to establish virtual schools, subject to the approval of the state Department of Education.
See MD EDUC, § 7-1402. Once a Maryland virtual school is approved, it is subject to all
applicable federal and state laws and regulations governing the operation of a public
school, and any student who is eligible for enrollment in a Maryland public school
may enroll in a virtual school. Id. Virtual schools in Maryland are required to provide
each enrolled student with: 1) access to a sequential curriculum approved by the state
Board of Education that meets or exceeds the standards adopted by the county board
in the county of the virtual school’s principal place of business; (2) the same length
of time for learning opportunities per academic year that is required for public school
students, unless the virtual school can show that a student has demonstrated mastery
or completion of the subject area; and (3) regular assessment in the core areas of
instruction as required by regulations adopted by the State Board of Education. See MD EDUC, § 7-1403. A virtual school in Maryland is also required to maintain an administrative
office in Maryland that will be considered to be its principal place of business.
See MD EDUC, § 7-1406. (2016 Update: please note that the Maryland State Board of Education
regulations provide that a school may not operate without a Certificate of Approval
from the State Board. Md. Admin. Code § 13A.09.09.01B (2015)).
Effective July 1, 2010, the Commonwealth of Virginia approved legislation establishing
virtual school programs. See Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-212.23. A virtual school program is defined as a series of online
courses (i) with instructional content delivered primarily electronically using the
Internet or other computer-based methods; (ii) taught by a teacher primarily from
a remote location, with student access to the teacher given synchronously, asynchronously,
(iii) delivered as a part-time or full-time program; and (iv) having an online component
with online lessons and tools for student and data management. Id. The virtual school
program must be provided by a “multidivision online provider.” A “multidivision online
provider” is defined as
a private or nonprofit organization that enters into a contract with a local school
board to provide online courses or programs through that school board to students
who reside in Virginia both within and outside the geographical boundaries of that
school division; (ii) a private or nonprofit organization that enters into contracts
with multiple local school boards to provide online courses or programs to students
in grades K through 12 through those school boards; or (iii) a local school board
that provides online courses or programs to students who reside in Virginia but outside
the geographical boundaries of that school division. See Va. Code Ann. § 22.212.23. “Multidivision online providers” must be approved by the Superintendent of Public
Instruction. See http://www.doe.virginia.gov/instruction/virtual_learning/virtual_schools/ (last visited April 29, 2013). In the case of state-recognized virtual private schools,
the Virginia Board of Education has authorized the Virginia Council for Private Education
(“VCPE”) to oversee accreditation of nonpublic preschool, elementary, and secondary
schools in the Commonwealth. See Va. Code Ann. § 22.1-19; see also http://www.vcpe.org (last visited April 29, 2013).
West Virginia (PR 08025.054)
There has been no change in West Virginia law regarding online schools since January
Our research revealed that West Virginia does not recognize online schools as educational
institutions. West Virginia’s requirements for schools are outlined in W.Va.Code.
R. § 126-42-1, et seq., dealing with Assuring the Quality of Education: Regulations
for Education Programs.
District of Columbia (PR 08025.010)
There has been no change in District of Columbia law regarding online schools since
January 2010. Our research revealed that the District of Columbia does not recognize
online schools as educational institutions. The District of Columbia’s requirements
for schools are outlined in D.C. Mun. Regs., tit. 5, § 300, et seq., dealing with
curriculum and testing.
Except for Pennsylvania (in limited circumstances), Maryland, and Virginia, none of
the states in Region III recognizes online schools as educational institutions. Therefore,
with the exception of students conforming to the requirements for online schools under
Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia law, a legal opinion should be requested from
OGC on a case-by-case basis relating to title II issues for students attending online
Acting Regional Chief Counsel
Assistant Regional Counsel
Anne von Scheven
Assistant Regional Counsel