1. Q: Why
is an Education Allowance paid?
A: Title 5
United States Code (USC) 5924(4)(A) provides the basis for the education
allowance. The intent of the law is embodied in Chapter 270 of the
government-wide Standardized Regulations (Government Civilians, Foreign Areas)
maintained by the Department of State (commonly referred to as the DSSR).
The education allowance is intended to assist
employees to meet the extraordinary and necessary expenses incurred by reason
of service in a foreign area, not otherwise compensated for, in providing an
adequate elementary or secondary education for their dependent children.
Reimbursement is limited to costs for educational services normally provided
free of charge in U.S. public schools.
While the law does not discuss home
study/private instruction/virtual schooling, it is in the best interest of the
USG to ensure students enrolled in a home study course, private instruction or
virtual schooling in a foreign area are able to reintegrate into a public
education system when they return to the United States.
2. Q: What is an adequate education?
A: The major
criterion of "adequacy" is whether a child of normal ability, upon
completion of a grade, or its equivalent, can enter the next higher grade in a
public school in the United States.
3. Q: How can an employee/parent ensure that his/her
child obtains an adequate education?
A: The child
should attend an adequate school at post; attend an adequate school away from
post; or experience adequate home study/private instruction/virtual schooling.
4a. Q: What is adequate home study/private
A: Per DSSR 271f definition:
(1) “Home Study” means a complete academic
core curriculum course in the home using guidelines and standards similar to or
equal to those established for the greater District of Columbia, Maryland or
Virginia region (referred to as the DMV).
(2) “Private Instruction” means instruction
provided on a regular basis using a recognized and accredited program of study
in a setting other than a school; and
(3) “Virtual Schooling” means a method of
education in an accredited program of study in which instructional delivery is
either synchronous or asynchronous.
4b. Q: What does "accredited" mean in the
DSSR? By USG's definition schools can be accredited and teachers can be
credentialed, but there is no accreditation process for curriculum or programs
that are unaffiliated with an educational institution.
DSSR requires an accredited program be followed by the instructor (not a
parent) who is teaching a child a full course of study by private instruction.
The DSSR also requires that if a child is following Virtual Schooling the
program must be accredited. If a child is being educated at home by a
parent the requirement is that the parent has put together a core curriculum of
study similar to or equivalent to the core curriculum in the greater District
of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia region (referred to as the DMV).
Q: Where can I find
accredited programs of study for private instruction and virtual schooling?
A: The Department of State’s Family Liaison Office
(FLO) contains a list of
accredited programs of study if using private instruction or virtual schooling.
5. Q: What
is a core curriculum?
A: Per DSSR 271 o definition: “Core Curriculum” means a complete
academic core set of courses including English/Language Arts, Foreign Language,
Math, Science, Social Studies, Art, Music, and Health/Physical Education.
6a. Q: Where can I find home study guidelines and
standards for the greater District of Columbia, Maryland or Virginia region
(referred to as the DMV)?
A: The Department of State’s Family Liaison Office
(FLO) contains links to home
study guidelines and standards for the DMV.
6b. Q: What if I’ve been providing my
home state’s guidelines for home study, can I continue to provide my home
state’s guidelines or am I going to be required to convert to guidelines and
standards for the DMV?
A: DSSR 277.3c(2)a states For Home Study - Proof that the child is
following the core curriculum of a home study program similar to or
equivalent to guidelines and standards in the District of Columbia or
one of the adjacent counties in Maryland or Virginia (referred to as the DMV).
Most of the home state homeschool guidelines are similar to the
DMV. It is recommended that you review the guidelines and standards
for the DMV and be able to provide your reasoning as to how your selected
state’s guidelines and standards align with the DMV in the event the
authorizing officer questions your documentation. There is no
requirement to convert to a DMV program.
7. Q: Where
can I find accredited programs of study for private instruction and virtual
A: The Department of State’s Family Liaison Office (FLO) contains a list of accredited programs of study if using
private instruction or virtual schooling.
8. Q: If
home study/private instruction/virtual schooling is the selected educational
method, how can the post ensure that an education allowance is being granted
for an adequate education in accordance with the law and regulation?
A: Intended in law at Title 5 United States Code 5924(4) and carried
out in DSSR 277.3c(2) a post must ensure that an education allowance is
being granted for an adequate education by obtaining the following from the
Home Study – Proof that the child is following the core curriculum of a home
study program that is similar to guidelines and standards in the District of
Columbia or one of the adjacent counties in Maryland or Virginia (referred to
as the DMV). You do not have to select a program in the DMV, but the chosen
curriculum needs to be similar to guidance as provided in the DMV. Each state
offers similarities to the DMV.
For Private Instruction - Proof that the
child is being instructed using a recognized and accredited program of study.
Private instruction is not a tutor. Private instruction as defined
at DSSR 271f.(2) includes hiring an instructor to teach the complete lesson
plan using a recognized and accredited program of study.
For Virtual Schooling - Proof that the child
is in a recognized and accredited virtual schooling program.
b. Academic requirements for Home Study/Private
Instruction/Virtual Schooling should be met each year to include:
Ability to Monitor Progress;
Ability to Assess End-of-Year Outcomes; and
Graduation Requirements (grades 7-12)
9. Q: What is the education allowance amount allowed
for home study/private instruction/virtual schooling?
annual maximums, which are for grades K-6 and grades 7-12, respectively, are
given at DSSR 274.12b. However, the maximum amount reimbursed for
allowable expenses cannot exceed the "at post" education allowance
listed in DSSR Section 920 when the school/grade at post is considered adequate
and that maximum rate for school at post is less than the applicable maximum
rate for home study/private instruction/virtual schooling.
Note: A separate education allowance for
children with special needs qualifying under PL-105-17, the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA), is available from birth to the
21st birthday; for individuals receiving services or support pursuant to
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) this allowance is
available for grades Kindergarten through 12th grade. The maximum education
allowance rate for home study/private instruction/virtual schooling of children
with special needs is shown at DSSR 274.12c. An additional 50% of the education
allowance may be reimbursed at the post level for necessary, allowable expenses
(DSSR 276.81). Requests for reimbursement for allowable expenses above
the additional 50% maximum must be submitted to the Director, Office of
Allowances, U.S. Department of State.
10. Q: Effective
January 3, 2021, why were the grade ranges changed from K-8 and 9-12 to grades
K-6 and 7-12?
change was made to better address the transition to the secondary school level.
11. Q: With the change from grades K-8 and 9-12 to
K-6 and 7-12 effective January 3, 2021, can I be reimbursed for additional
allowable expenses for my children in 7th and 8th grade?
A: Yes. You will need to submit a Standard Form (SF) 1190 for
each child to request reimbursement for additional allowable expenses that may
have been incurred either prior to or subsequent to this change. The DSSR
960 Education Allowance Worksheet (revised effective 1/3/2021) should be used
to itemize allowable expenses. Page 2 of the revised worksheet shows
allowable and non-allowable expenses for all education allowance methods.
12. Q: Where in the DSSR can I find allowable and
non-allowable expenses for home study/private instruction/virtual schooling?
A: DSSR 277.3a lists allowable expenses and DSSR 277.3b lists
non-allowable expenses. In addition, the DSSR 960 Education Allowance
Worksheet (rev. 1/3/2021) page 2 shows allowable and non-allowable expenses.
13. Q: Can an employee be reimbursed for expenses
incurred prior to arrival at his/her foreign post of assignment?
A: Per DSSR 273 reimbursement may not
be received prior to employee's arrival at a foreign post. After the employee,
or family member, has arrived at the foreign post of assignment, the Standard
Form (SF) 1190 and DSSR 960 Education Allowance Worksheet may be filed to
receive reimbursement of allowable expenses.
14. Q: What is the
deadline for submitting the Standard Form (SF) 1190 to request reimbursement
for allowable expenses under the Home Study/Private Instruction/Virtual
A: Per DSSR 273 “Evidence of actual schooling costs for the ‘Home
Study/Private Instruction/Virtual Schooling’ educational method (DSSR 274.12b)
must be submitted no later than the end of the fiscal year (September 30) for
schooling completed within the past 12 month period or when requested by the
officer designated to authorize allowances, the Department of State, or other
15. Q: Can I rent a computer, laptop or tablet which
will be used for my child’s school work?
A: Yes. Under Allowable Expenses, DSSR 277.3a(7) states
“Electronic devices and other rentals: of a computer, laptop, and/or
other electronic device of curriculum-related equipment; and other items such
as microscopes and band instruments (such as the Sousaphone) which would
normally be provided in the DMV.”
16. Q: Can I be reimbursed for allowable expenses
under DSSR 277.3a if my child is enrolled in a home study course with a
A: Yes. You
can be reimbursed for allowable expenses under DSSR 277.3a. See DSSR
277.3c(2) for required documentation for the Home Study/Private Instruction/Virtual
Schooling educational method.
17a. Q: What expenses are allowed if an
employee uses a third-party provider (referred to as an umbrella or cover
school) to assist with their child’s home study program?
A: DSSR 277.3b (7) “Third-party expenses: An educational
provider receiving payment must be providing the course teaching and
evaluations directly to the student. The course of study provided by the
educational provider may be online, by correspondence, or through other
appropriate materials. Indirect or third-party service provider fees,
such as umbrella schools/cover schools not providing direct instruction,
course, or accredited virtual education, are not reimbursable fees or
recognized as advisory fees. However, an employee/parent can elect to pay them
as a personal expense. Third-party service providers may not receive an
advance payment as they are not the direct educational service provider.
The educational service provider must document that the child is enrolled and
list out itemized goods/services/fee costs paid by the third-party service
provider or directly by the employee/parent, and confirm that the fees paid are
no higher than had the employee/parent enrolled the student directly with the
17b. Q: Abeka won’t
accept payment directly from the government. If we pay out of pocket and submit
for reimbursement, will it be approved?
A: When claiming
expenses an invoice should clearly describe each expense so there isn’t a doubt
what is being reviewed. Note: Employees/parents should review DSSR
277.3b(7) if Third-Party Expenses are involved.
17c. Q: Also, if we
purchase a curriculum from Abeka that isn't part of their full, accredited
grade level (e.g. just Language Arts
classes to take over summer), is that reimbursable?
A: Yes. DSSR 273 states the following “Evidence
of actual schooling costs for the ‘Home Study/Private Instruction/Virtual
Schooling’ educational method (DSSR 274.12b) must be submitted no later than
the end of the fiscal year (September 30) for schooling completed within the
past 12 month period or when requested by the officer designated to authorize
allowances, the Department of State, or other responsible authority.”
17d. Q: Under Third-Party
Expenses [DSSR 277.3b(7)], there are many online classes
(i.e. Outschool, iTalki, etc.) that the private instructor is paid by
the company, not directly paid by the parent. Are these considered Third-Party
Expenses and not reimbursed?
A: DSSR 277.3b(7)
states “The educational service provider must document that the child is
enrolled and list out itemized goods/services/fee costs paid by the third-party
service provider or directly by the employee/parent, and confirm that the fees
paid are no higher than had the employee/parent enrolled the student directly
with the educational provider.”
18. Q: Reviewing DSSR 277.3a(3) it
states “expendable supplies which are normally provided free of charge in the
DMV (see DSSR 960 Education Allowance Worksheet page 2 for non-allowable
expendable supplies).” This worksheet states that non-allowable supplies
include binders, composition books, notebooks, pens, pencils, markers, crayons,
paint sets, paper, rulers, facial tissue, hand sanitizer and scientific
calculator. I’ve already been reimbursed for some of these expenses I
claimed prior to the 1/3/2021 effective date. Will I be required to repay
these amounts? What if I purchased these prior to 1/3/2021 and other
employees at post have been reimbursed for these expenses?
A: These are all items not normally provided free of charge in U.S.
public schools and are now clearly stated as non-allowable in the DSSR
effective 1/3/2021 for all education allowance methods ("At Post";
"Away from Post"; and "Home Study/Private Instruction/Virtual
Schooling"). If the authorizing officer considered these items you
claimed as allowable and approved them prior to 1/3/2021 you will not be
required to repay these expenses. Also, if these had been considered
allowable at post for other employees' claims prior to 1/3/2021 then the
authorizing officer may approve claims for these expenses if the employee
produces a receipt that they were purchased prior to 1/3/2021.
19. Q: How
can I ensure that my expenses claimed are allowable?
claiming expenses you should first review allowable (DSSR 277.3a) and
non-allowable (DSSR 277.3b) expenses. Your SF-1190/DSSR 960 Education
Allowance Worksheet should note which core curriculum course(s) pertain to the
items on your list of claimed expenses. Available on Opennet only - Post
Support Unit (PSU) Sharepoint provides a helpful Sample Template for Home School Expense Claims. Available on both
Opennet and Internet here is the link to the Sample Template.
20a. Q: I am following Home Study and
educating my child at home. My child requires additional instruction for
a core curriculum course. Can I be reimbursed for expenses for this
additional instruction? Could I use Supplementary Instruction under DSSR
276.9 for this additional instruction?
Supplementary Instruction is allowed only in addition to the “At Post”
Education Allowance method. For Home Study/Private Instruction/Virtual
Schooling, DSSR 277.3a(4) allows reimbursement for additional instruction when
a child needs it for a core curriculum course. DSSR 277.3b(3) does not
allow reimbursement if a parent provides this additional instruction.
20b. Q: Please confirm that tutors are reimbursable under
A: DSSR 277.3a(4)
states “costs to ensure that a child receives
age/grade-appropriate instruction or when a child needs
additional instruction for a core curriculum course”. When a child needs additional instruction in a
core curriculum course or courses then private instruction may be reimbursed
for such assistance which is distinct from private instruction for the full
course of study defined at DSSR 271f(2).
20c. Q: Homeschooling
almost always includes private instruction (tutors) and virtual schooling
(online courses). Can we be reimbursed for online courses and employ tutors in core
subject areas? How does accredited apply in these cases? After the January
3rd change, we enrolled our kids in a local school and the quality of their
education has decreased. Why the strict limitations for homeschoolers and not
for local schools?
tutoring is not normally provided free of charge in U.S. public schools.
If a child needs additional assistance connected with a school at post,
Supplementary Instruction (DSSR 276.9) is available. Under the Home
Study/Private Instruction/Virtual Schooling method when a child requires
additional assistance in a course then there may be reimbursement for such
additional assistance via DSSR 277.3a(4).
For this additional assistance accrediting does not apply.
21. Q: Can you explain why there are
different requirements depending on if I’m educating my child at home (Home Study);
someone outside the home is providing the full course of study (Private
Instruction); or an online synchronous or asynchronous course of study (Virtual
Schooling) is being followed?
requirements at DSSR 277.3c(1) are intended to ensure that a child in a home
study/private instruction/virtual schooling (HS/PI/VS) course in a foreign area
is able to reintegrate into a public education system when and if returning to
the United States.
If the child’s full course of study is via
either private instruction [DSSR 271f(2)] or virtual schooling [DSSR 271f(3)]
documentation under DSSR 277.3c(2) requires that a recognized and accredited
course of study is being followed. Although not all-inclusive, a list of
recognized and accredited programs is available on the Family Liaison Office
For home study [DSSR 271f(1)], DSSR 277.3c(2)
requires a core curriculum similar to or equivalent to the DMV and it does not
carry the same “recognized and accredited” verbiage as does private instruction
and virtual schooling. Links to the DMV school systems are available on
the Family Liaison Office
22a. Q: Why were the Education Allowance changes made
A: If conditions
faced by the Department were normal and did not include a global authorized
departure and pandemic-related issues commencing in early 2020 carrying through
late in the year, these amendments would have become effective during the
summer of 2020, occurring right before the beginning of the school year.
With these amendments occurring mid-year this gives employees/parents ample
time to prepare for the 2021-2022 school year.
22b. Q: Why were community members not given the
option to comment on these changes prior to their implementation?
A: Amendments to the
government-wide DSSR are made following a 30-day period of interagency
clearance and union consultation. During that period agencies clear and
submit any comments to the Office of Allowances (ALS). Unions are
consulted however they do not clear these government-wide regulations.
Unions may submit comments to ALS via GTM/PC. Comments were not received
from the unions for amendments to either DSSR Chapter 270 (Education
Allowances) or DSSR Chapter 960 (Education Allowance Worksheet) effective
22c. Q: Will the Department consider reversing some
of these decisions given that homeschoolers were not given any advance
A: The amendments to
the DSSR were announced in ALDAC 20 STATE 125150 dated 12/31/2020. These
amendments have the force and effect of Law. The recommended changes were
developed by a working group of professional educators from the Office of
Overseas Schools with vast knowledge of all education allowance methods as well
as representatives from the Family Liaison Office, CGFS Post Support Unit and
the Office of Allowances with foreign post assignment and education experience.
22d. Q: If the
homeschooling community wants to submit a proposal for a new system which
grants full funding of the allowance for the homeschoolers while affirming to
the Department of State or another employing agency that funds are being used
to educate the child, is there a process to do this, and if
so, whom do they contact?
The education allowance can only be used to reimburse
items authorized by the statute.
Additionally, the Education Allowance is a cost of living
allowance and is not currently subject to Federal Income Tax. For
that reason all cost of living allowances under DSSR Chapter 200 (COLA, FTA,
HSTA, SMA, Education and Educational Travel) are reimbursements for necessary
Congress requires an accounting of all allowances from
agencies approximately every five years. If an employee were given an
amount of money without documentation this could move their allowance to
taxable income. It is not so simple as to just advance this
allowance. Regulations in the DSSR are specific and the
allowance may only be advanced when it is necessary
and monetarily benefits the
USG. “275 Payments Education allowances may be paid in
advance, either by lump sum or by installments, only as necessary for the
employee to meet periodic educational expenses or when a monetary advantage,
such as a discount, would accrue to the Government. If a grant payment is
made by lump sum to the employee, the authorizing officer must require proof of
school payment within a reasonable amount of time in order to certify that
school bills were paid at the beginning of the school year.”
23. Q: If I determine the program I’m
using is not similar to or equivalent to the DMV standards, do I have to switch
You do not need to switch programs mid-year, however, when submitting the
SF-1190 for the next school year DSSR 277.3c documentation will be required.
24. Q: Why am I being told I have to
use a curriculum of a home study program similar to or equivalent to guidelines
and standards in the District of Columbia or one of the adjacent counties in
Maryland or Virginia (referred to as the DMV)?
A: Once you
research the guidelines and standards for the DMV available on the Family Liaison Office’s
website you will realize there is a
wide range of guidelines and standards which allow you flexibility in choice of
which DMV standards and guidelines to match up with whatever home study
standards and guidelines you are currently following. With most USG
agency headquarters in the Washington, D.C. area, if an employee is assigned to
the DMV region, s/he will be required to adhere to the applicable DMV
guidelines and standards.
25. Q: Can I continue to use the
curriculum that I put together from various sources to provide individualized
instruction for my children with different academic needs?
however, per DSSR 277.3c(2)a For Home Study - Proof that the child is following
the core curriculum of a home study program similar to or equivalent to guidelines
and standards in the District of Columbia or one of the adjacent counties in
Maryland or Virginia (referred to as the DMV). Per DSSR definition 271 o
“Core curriculum” means a complete academic core set of courses including
English/Language Arts, Foreign Language, Math, Science, Social Studies, Art,
Music, and Health/Physical Education.
Under the redefinition of "private instruction" as using a
"recognized and accredited program of study", does this mean the
instructor must be accredited somehow? Must the instructor teach following a
specific type of program? Does the instructor have to be affiliated with a
school or other institution?
A: DSSR definition 271f(2) “Private Instruction” means
instruction provided on a regular basis using a recognized and accredited
program of study in a setting other than a school. It does not state that
the instructor needs to be accredited or affiliated with a school or other
institution. However, when the full course of study is provided by a private
instructor the employee/parent must provide documentation that the instructor
is using or following a recognized and accredited program of study. For
reference, although not all-inclusive, a list of accredited programs of study
are available on the Family Liaison Office’s
27a. Q: Based on the new
requirement at DSSR 277.3c(2)b that “Academic requirements for Home
Study/Private Instruction/Virtual Schooling should be met each year to include:
Annual Plan; Ability to Monitor Progress; Ability to Assess End-of-Year
Outcomes; and Graduation Requirements (grades 7-12)”. Who will evaluate these?
Financial Management Officers? Finance Locally Employed Staff?
A: The DSSR
requires that the post obtain documentation for these elements but not
evaluation of these.
27b. Q: Why are these
required for ONLY Home Study/Private Instruction/Virtual Schooling but NOT
required for post school?
A: DSSR 277.3c provides the
employee/parent the tools to chart and evaluate their children’s
progress. These were developed by a working group
comprised of professional educators from the Office of Overseas Schools
with vast knowledge of all education allowance methods as well as
representatives from the Family Liaison Office, CGFS Post Support Unit and the
Office of Allowances with foreign post assignment and education
experience. The documentation is intended to assist and not to penalize
if an employee/parent chooses the Home Study/Private Instruction/Virtual
Schooling education method. When an employee/parent chooses either the At
Post or Away from Post education method these requirements
are innate to established schools as they are authorized to
operate in the country they are located and provide documentation to
the student, such as report cards with evaluations.
27c. Q: What specific
documents do I need to submit to comply with this requirement?
are no formal forms or documents that are required. What
is required is a statement from the employee/parent saying what they will be
following and how they will monitor progress and how they will
assess end-of-year outcomes.
27d. Q: How
are assisted and non-assisted schools held accountable to the Department of
State with their student outcome?
whether assisted or non-assisted must be accredited, licensed, registered
or recognized within the country they are located in and requirements are
embedded in the yearly reports for these programs.
28a. Q: On the DSSR 960 Education
Allowance Worksheet, PE and music classes are specifically listed as
reimbursable "at school at post" and as "school charged
group" expenses. Does this mean we can only go through the at-post
school for these courses?
In addition to the charges in excess of what is charged to students attending
the school at post, access fees are allowed for recreation facilities to attend
group physical education classes. Group music and physical education
classes may be obtained outside of the school at post.
28b. Q: Why does the Department require reimbursable
PE and music instruction to be in groups even though this does not reflect
foreign service realities such as availability, demand, and gender
A: If PE
and music instruction is not in groups this would be personalized one-on-one
instruction which is not allowed.
28c. Q: Can you please clarify what constitutes a
group for group PE classes?
group may be defined as at least two persons.
Q: Are two physical education
instructors allowed to teach the group at the same time?
as long as the two instructors are teaching the group in tandem and not
providing one-on-one instruction.
Q: If two siblings attend a
class, can this be considered a group?
28f. Q: You
don't reimburse PE activities that aren't available in the DC metro area. But
you pay for post schools where instruction includes sports that aren't found in
DC/VA/MD. Can you help us understand this discrepancy?
Education/physical activity encompasses a wide variety of allowable
activity. In this age of COVID and the need for distancing physical
education/physical activity may include for example such sports as Tennis,
Bowling, Softball, Baseball, Cross Country and Archery.
29a. Q: On the DSSR 960 Education
Allowance Worksheet, non-allowable expenses including "set or collection
of books not part of curriculum". When
reading skills and literacy are foundational to education (and
libraries overseas are often unavailable) why are ANY book purchases
being disallowed? How do I prove every book I
purchase for homeschooling is part of the curriculum?
A: Book purchases “may” be
eligible for reimbursement. Questions to answer in order for claims
to be allowed: 1) how does this book apply to the course or courses being
studied; (2) does the book or books have use broader than the course or courses
being studied; and (3) is this normally (in at least 50% of the U.S.) provided
free of charge in the U.S. public schools? Supplemental books are
reimbursable expenses when clearly tied to the course requirements (example: British Literature – Shakespeare’s Plays) and
are not purely entertainment or so vaguely associated with a curriculum that a
connection between the expense and the course cannot be made. Available on
Opennet only - Post Support Unit (PSU) Sharepoint provides a helpful Sample Template for Home School Expense Claims. Available on both
Opennet and Internet here is the link to the Sample Template. The template allows you
to enter each book with its associated core curriculum course.
29b. Q: Requiring
that all books are tied to a curriculum is not appropriate for elementary
students, for example, as all reading materials/leveled readers will be used as
part of the language arts curriculum and are not tied to a specific subject or
A: Language Arts
is part of the core curriculum defined at DSSR 271 o.
29c. Q: Please
explain how to document that language arts books are not used outside the course.
A: The easiest
ways to document this is for the books to be required for the course.
30a. Q: Homeschooling
families pay for U.S. public libraries and public schools with
our U.S. tax dollars. They rely
on public libraries. At most posts, we don't have access to
them. In general, “At Post” schools
won’t give homeschooled students access to their libraries and online libraries
are often not appropriate to teach early or new readers.
A: Research shows that there are many public
libraries by State, with special sections for young readers as well as paid
libraries with dedicated grade appropriate materials starting with
Kindergarten. See openlibrary.org.
30b. Q: Can
you specify which online libraries will be reimbursed?
A: From a Post
Support Unit (PSU) perspective, we would accept any age-appropriate libraries.
31a. Q: Can there be a reasonable
stipend, determined by the Office of Allowances, for expendable supplies like
pencils, pens, markers, paper, paint, etc.? These items are sometimes provided
in public schools in the U.S. depending on which U.S. school district you're
comparing to. How are
we to know what is reimbursable? Will you provide a list of what WILL be
A: These expendable supplies are not normally provided
free of charge in the majority (over 50%) of U.S. public schools. These
supplies are not included in any of the education allowance methods - “At
Post”, “Away from Post” or “Home Study/Private Instruction/Virtual Schooling”. Representatives from the Office of
Allowances, Office of Overseas Schools, Post Support Unit and the Family
Liaison Office met to discuss changes to DSSR 270 and 960
pertaining to the Education Allowances. The question came
up whether or not to still include expendable supplies in the
list of allowable expenses since the responsibility for these supplies has
shifted to parents. DSSR 960 Education Allowance Worksheet page 2 lists
non-allowable expendable supplies for all education allowance methods.
31b. Q: Why does the Department allege that art
supplies are not reimbursable because public schools don't provide them, even
though this is incorrect and public school students do not need to bring paint
brushes and sculpting clay to art class?
A: In an art class
in a Fairfax County High School the child/parent is required to pay an art fee
which covers use of such items. At the
elementary school level the parent is required to provide the small eight color
paint set as part of required supplies.
32. Q: I live in the Southern
Hemisphere and use the U.S. school calendar Aug-June to homeschool my children.
My concern is, “A HS program is timed to coincide with the school year that
predominates at local post schools.” Does this mean that families in the
Southern Hemisphere have to shift their school year to Jan-Dec? This would be a
hardship for my family as I do not want my child to have to be put in the grade
ahead or in the grade s/he just completed to simply coincide with the school
year at local post schools.
A: A home
study program does not require conforming to the school year of the school at
post and is not confined to the school year as defined at DSSR 271h since home
study is not “a specific educational facility”. Home Study may be year
271 h. "School year" means
the total number of calendar days involved in obtaining, by means of a specific
educational facility, elementary or secondary schooling within one prescribed
maximum rate in one 12 month period.
Further supporting the year around nature of
home study, DSSR 273 states that evidence of actual schooling costs for the
“Home Study/Private Instruction/Virtual Schooling” educational method (DSSR
274.12b) must be submitted no later than the end of the fiscal year (September
30) for schooling completed within the past 12 month period or when requested
by the officer designated to authorize allowances, the Department of State, or
other responsible authority.
33. Q: Under the new DSSR, regarding
sports, it is unclear about whether dance classes or group sports are still
reimbursable, which they used to be. Can you clarify?
group sports means extracurricular team sports affiliated with the school at
post then expenses charged above what is charged for children attending the
school may be reimbursed. Team sports outside of the school at post, such
as county-sponsored sports in the U.S. are paid for by the parents and are not reimbursed
under the education allowance. General group dance classes may be
reimbursed as physical education activity.
34. Q: Who within the Department of State apart from
the Office of Allowances is responsible for advocating for and advising
homeschoolers when there are concerns with reimbursements?
A: The Family Liaison Office, Education and
Youth team are available and ready to listen, guide, and advocate
with our partner offices on any homeschooling issues that are brought to our
attention from employees and their families. We
have been and will continue to be a voice to
convey policy concerns to better serve all foreign service
families. However, we are not the education, allowances, or
finance experts. In situations where there are more complicated
circumstances with allowances or reimbursements, we would refer clients
directly to the appropriate office. The Office of Overseas Schools
is also available to listen and provide guidance to support families that
choose to use homeschooling as an educational option and will
assist with clarification of common practices that exist within US public
schools and international schools abroad that serve our diplomatic dependents.
35. Q: Why are final decisions on allowable expenses
being made by people who may or may not have any experience with homeschooling
(or education more broadly)? Particularly overseas, homeschooling often means
piecing together a curriculum and others may not understand that.
A: The final decision for a
direct payment or reimbursement rests with the certifying officer, as
this person is personally and financially liable for the legality and
correctness of any payment made, however, a certifying officer relies on
the Office of Allowances and Office of Overseas Schools for
final interpretation of educational materials for reimbursement.
36. Q: Why is every item scrutinized for HS
families, but not post schools? They are not made to justify (to non-educators)
each purchase and connect it to a curriculum in order to receive funding as we
are. It's discriminatory and degrading. Can the Department develop a
spreadsheet with clickable options to standardize the process and take less
time away from our children and/or work?
This is a misconception. Traditional school tuition
bills are also reviewed for disallowable items. Homeschooling parents do
not have to be more accountable, however, parents using a brick and mortar, or
virtual school normally only forward the school tuition bill to the finance
office and not individual expenses. Each education allowance method selected
has a discrete set of regulations that governs payments; however, all methods
must provide an adequate education that is provided free of charge by
public schools in the US.
37a. Q: Why
are families using schools-at-post not held to any standard for subjects taken,
reimbursements, class size, or proof of progress? Why are school-using families
not asked to reimburse the USG for the many non-covered expenses that
homeschoolers are not reimbursed for (for example elective courses such as
a computer class/digital imaging)?
A: The school at
post already has a developed curriculum, progress established in testing and is
accredited, licensed, registered or recognized in the country the school is
located in. In a core curriculum there is flexibility for
elective courses, especially at the high school level. When parents
enroll children in schools at post these schools have curriculum articulations,
courses of study, progress reporting expectations, and standards that are
subject to verification from local host country authorities. Proof of progress
would be the promotion to the next grade level.
37b. Q: Can my
child take a computer class as a homeschooler, can we get reimbursed for
computer coding supplies and what about computer lab fees and technology rental
at at-post schools?
A: A computer class would normally be an
elective offered in middle or high school (grades 6-12). Per DSSR 277.3a(2) (allowable expenses): “Course
materials: textbooks and supplemental course-related materials which do not
have a broader use than the course being studied and are normally provided free
in the DMV.” If computer lab fees and technology rental are stated as part of course materials then these
are allowable expenses.
38a. Q: For
supplemental materials, what is meant by "do not have a broader use than
the course being studied" and how will that be clearly/consistently
A: If there is a
question of broader use than the course or courses being studied the
employee/parent needs to be prepared to explain how this doesn’t have a broader
use than the course or courses being studied. Before ordering, the
employee/parent should ask him/herself “would this normally be provided free of
charge in the U.S. public schools”? Several factors are considered
in whether a homeschooling expenditure can be reimbursed. A certifying
officer will first look to the language in the DSSR 270 regulations and 960
worksheet to see if an expense is allowable or prohibited from reimbursement.
In general, items that have a broader use beyond just academic or are not given
to a student free of charge in a U.S. public school are not allowed for reimbursement.
A certifying officer may also deny an expense reimbursement if it is not
relevant to the curriculum or courses being studied and will seek guidance from
the Office of Overseas Schools as education experts.
38b. Q: If this is the standard, how is it applied
for reimbursement for school at post?
school should provide a list of required reading for the course which will
verify the expenses being claimed. Also, parents in the U.S. public
schools have had to pay for books other than the standard textbook whereas
these additional books are allowed under all education methods.
39. Q: What record keeping requirements exist that
protect my child's personal information (educational plan, progress monitoring
and end of year results) from unauthorized disclosure in the E2 process and
The electronic submission of claims through
E2 presents no greater risk of unauthorized disclosure than the
traditional paper method. E2 is the official approved system for claims. In
general, only the SF-1190 contains PII material–the birthdates for the
students. This information is required in both processes. Electronic records within the E2
system have only limited access to select individuals. Posts
may further strengthen privacy by electing the routing to remove
travel arrangers for these claims.
The Cognitive Abilities Test (CogAT) is provided to all Northern
Virginia (NOVA) students by Virginia law. It helps identify 2e and other
underrepresented groups for Gifted/Talented (G/T) programs. It aids in
transitions home and abroad. Why is it restricted only to students attending
school at post?
A: A generalization with G/T
testing in the US public schools is that assessments are done between the ages
of 5-8 to determine eligibility. Most international schools do not provide G/T
testing nor offer extended G/T services. Testing varies from district to
district, state by state to determine G/T. With that said, G/T testing is done
free of charge in US Public schools. The Office of Overseas Schools (OS) does
facilitate G/T testing if an assisted or unassisted overseas school indicates
the child is performing at such a high level that G/T testing is recommended. For students enrolled in Virginia’s Fairfax
County Public Schools (FCPS), all grade 2 students are tested annually to
determine eligibility. For students not
attending FCPS, the testing for G/T in NOVA is based on a referral process to
identify a student for potential Gifted services. Referral approvals then require assessment to
determine eligibility. OS does provide
this to students who are referred or recommended for G/T testing for schools
41. Q: In allowable
expenses at DSSR 277.3a(6), (8) and (10), what is an "other authorized
program"? Who is authorizing another program? How long will this
authorizing process take? Will this information be broadly shared?
authorized program” is carryover language from DSSR 277.3 prior to the changes
effective 1/3/2021 and was referring to a program such as the
distance learning program through the University of Nebraska High School.
42. Q: Why
are regs not applied equally to ALL students at post? Private schools are not
put through this level of scrutiny, to receive funding. If this is not applied
to all children at Post, you cannot selectively apply it to any Post children.
is a misconception. Tuition bills submitted for payment are also reviewed
before certification to ensure that funding does not go to
disallowable items, such as uniforms, lunches, field trips, yearbooks,
etc. Homeschooling parents do not have to be more accountable, however,
parents using a brick and mortar, or virtual school normally only forward the
school tuition bill to the finance office and not individual expenses. Each
education allowance method selected has a discrete set of regulations that
governs payments; however, all methods must provide an adequate education that
is normally provided free of charge in US public schools.
43a. Q: It is
understood that the Office of Allowances (ALS) “owns” the regulation that
applies to Homeschool.
A: The Department of State’s Office of
Allowances (ALS) is delegated the responsibility to maintain the
government-wide Standardized Regulations (Government Civilians, Foreign Areas),
commonly referred to as the DSSR. DSSR
270 contains regulations for the Education Allowance. ALS is not responsible for agency
implementing regulations which may be more restrictive than the DSSR but cannot
go beyond the scope of the DSSR.
43b. Q: Does
ALS also “own” and publish the applicable FAMs and FAHs that establish the
43c. Q: If not,
which office does “own” the policies (FAMs and FAHs)?
A: 4 FAM
which governs the execution of payments
falls under the purview of CGFS.
44a. Q: Which
office (Allowances, PSU, Post FMO, other) has the authority and should be determining
if a claimed expense qualifies for reimbursement under the regulation (and
A: The Post FMO or PSU determines if a
claimed expense is reimbursable consistent with the DSSR.
44b. Q: Which
office has the final decision on whether or not an item (that may fall into a
grey area) is or is not reimbursable? Is it Allowances, PSU, Post FMO,
A: The Post FMO or PSU determines if a claimed
expense is reimbursable consistent with the DSSR. A certifying officer must ensure that funds
are used appropriately and consistent with regulation and law.
45. Q: What is
the appeal or resubmission process for an incomplete or denied claim?
A: The Office of Allowances does not process
claims. There should be instructions
back to the employee/parent designating what is incomplete and/or the reason
for the denied claim. The employee
should resubmit the completed claim and/or how the claimed expense relates to a
course or courses being studied.
46. Q: Can you
please put all of the homeschool reimbursement forms and templates on platforms
that are easily accessible and in one clear location?
A: Templates are available on both the
internal State Department Opennet and Internet.
Available on Opennet only - Post
Support Unit (PSU) Sharepoint provides a helpful Sample Template for Home School Expense Claims. Available on both
Opennet and Internet is the link to the Sample Template.
47. Q: Can you
please provide the ALDAC for the recent DSSR270 updates from January 3,
A: 20 State
125150 dated 12/31/2020.
48. Q: If reading books
aren't reimbursable, why hasn't the Dept of State established an agreement with
digital library providers such as OverDrive or Libby in the same manner as the
military services? See: https://www.myairforcelife.com/libraries
A: The Department of
State’s Office of Allowances (ALS) maintains the government-wide Standardized
Regulations (referred to as the DSSR) and allowances under the DSSR which are applicable
to all USG civilians in foreign areas unless an agency has its own
authority. The Department of Defense
(DoD) has its own authority for educating children of both uniformed service
personnel and DoD civilian employees.
Department of State’s implementing policy pertaining to the DSSR are the Foreign
Affairs Manual (FAM) and Foreign Affairs Handbook (FAH) which are maintained
separately from ALS. Programs such as
referenced are not be part of ALS’s portfolio, however, we note that both
OverDrive and Libby are downloadable apps.
49. Q: We
are the only homeschooling family at our post in a non-English speaking
country. How is it fair to expect only group classes will be covered when there
aren't group class options available? Isn't this discriminatory to
A: Group classes may be
available online. Anything that isn’t a
group (which may be two or more persons) would be individualized instruction
which is not free of charge in U.S. public schools.
50. Q: When
was the allowance amount last updated, how was it formulated and why does it
not reflect differences in cost of living around the world and inflation as
other allowances do?
A: Prior to the 1/3/2021
change from grades K-8 and 9-12 to grades K-6 and 7-12 the rates ($10,500 and
$21,500, respectively) have been in effect since 8/5/2018. Rates are reviewed annually with no changes
required in the last two reviews.
Well-known and respected programs are used to develop the rates and the
amounts are constant irrespective of world location. The education allowance is one of the cost of
living allowances mentioned in the Law at 5 US Code 5924. The post allowance is a separate cost of
living allowance which measures differences and the effects of inflation on the
market basket of goods and services worldwide as compared with costs and
inflation in Washington, D.C. The post
allowance is a separate measurement and does not include children’s education.
51. Q: Are
there hourly limits for the number of hours a family can use
private instruction for any of the 8 core courses under Home Study? I.e., no
more than 3 hours of PE/week, by additional instructor. If so, this info needs
to be broadly shared and posted.
A: There is not a limited number
of hours attached to private instruction.
All DSSR methods of education (At Post, Away from Post, Home
Study/Private Instruction/Virtual Schooling and Special Needs Education
Allowance) are represented by a single dollar amount with reimbursement for all
allowable expenses within the maximum rate set for each method.
52. Q: Homeschool
students are now being held to double-state standards, the DMV on top of their
legal state of residence? This is an undue burden on parents, plus takes away
from our home state's legal rights to govern the child's education WHY?
A: The DMV provides a
reference point, is not a restriction and does not impose undue burden on the
53. Q: Allowable
expenses (6) - can a family using Home Study submit expenses for reimbursement
in this category? Please give examples of "digital learning resources''
that any family could submit for reimbursement, whether they use HS, PI, or
A: DSSR 277.3a(6) states “Access to digital learning resources: for a recognized and accredited program of
study, an accredited virtual schooling program or other authorized
program.” Allowable expenses under this
category apply to additional costs that may be charged for a program a child is
54. Q: Please clarify
Private Instruction in the DSSR? It appears to have two meanings (1) as 1/3
options HS/PI/VS (2) as "additional instruction for a core curriculum
course," FAQ 20 says it can be used when a family chooses the category of
A: Yes, there are two meanings. One meaning is for a full course of study
being provided by an instructor or instructors.
The other meaning is for supplemental instruction regardless of HS/PI/VS
when a child needs additional assistance in one or more courses.
55. Q: Many
current homeschoolers are considering starting their own schools to avoid the
limitations and problems of the homeschool allowances. Can we expect any
changes to the DSSR regarding "School at Post” education allowances?
A: The “School at Post”
education allowances are reviewed annually and rates are normally based on the
least expensive adequate school at post.
56. Q: What
is the name and contact info for the person "in charge" of
homeschoolers within DOS? Who should we go to when we have questions? Our CLO
and FMO at Post have zero understanding of what homeschooling is nor the
A: The Office of Allowances,
Office of Overseas Schools, the Family Liaison Office and CGFS Post Support
Unit are all good references for questions.
The employee/parent is ultimately the person in charge of their
57. Q: Regarding
documentation - who sees this information? Who has access? How is a child's
privacy being protected? What happens to this documentation, & where does
it end up? Private school students don’t have to share this documentation with
A: The electronic
submission of claims through E2 presents no greater risk of
unauthorized disclosure than the traditional paper method. E2 is the
official approved system for claims. In general, only the SF-1190 contains
PII material–the birthdates for the students and is required for all
education methods. This information is required in both processes. Electronic records within the E2
system have only limited access to select individuals. Posts
may further strengthen privacy by electing the routing to remove
travel arrangers for these claims.
58. Q: What
plans are there to provide more training about reimbursements for FMOs? Our FMO
incorrectly quoted a reimbursement number, costing us over 3K out-of-pocket
when they realized their error.
A: FMO training is not part
of the Office of Allowances’ portfolio, however, perhaps this could be brought
up in the State Department’s FINNET channel.
59. Q: It
seems as though homeschoolers are held to a higher standard than at-post
schoolers. This reflects lack of trust in DoS parents to know what's best for
their kids, as well as lack of understanding for what homeschooling entrails.
Is there an appropriate forum for Homeschooling families to share their
concerns in a productive manner to help the Department understand the unique
challenges of homeschooling overseas?
A: The intent of required
documentation is to protect homeschooling as an option for families assigned to
foreign areas. Homeschooling in the
United States is a choice and the main burden of expense is on the parent. The Family Liaison Office is a valuable
resource and sounding board for homeschooling families.
60. Q: Can
you please explain the reimbursement process? How long should the reimbursement
process take? I would like a realistic expectation. And, what is the
appropriate way to follow up?
A: Each agency has its own
procedures, including the Department of State.
You should probably first check with your FMO at post. Also available is the Post Support Unit. Their email address is GFSPSU@state.gov.
61. Q: Is
it possible to invite DOS homeschooling parents on a panel to advise management
and the OoA on a reasonable, streamlined, non-discriminatory budget that allows
an exceptional education while still saving posts thousands of dollars?
A: The education allowance is
a cost of living allowance and not subject to federal income tax because it is
a reimbursement for necessary expenses.
All cost of living allowances under DSSR The cost of living allowances
contained in DSSR Chapter 200 are reimbursements for actual expenses incurred
as a result of an assignment to a foreign post.
To allow a lump sum of a cost of living allowance without justification
opens this up to Congressional oversight/inquiry which in turn could lead to
taxation of the homeschooling allowance.
62. Q: Many
curricula don't offer some of the 'specials', health or phys. ed. Can you
please explain why these are required for a curriculum to be accredited and
A: DSSR definition 271o: “Core Curriculum” means a complete academic core set of courses
including English/Language Arts, Foreign Language, Math, Science, Social
Studies, Art, Music, and Health/Physical Education. This definition is to highlight all parts of
a core curriculum, bringing attention perhaps to the less recognized such as
Art, Music and Health/Physical Education.
By establishing what the core curriculum includes allows for reimbursement
for instruction in these courses in addition to the accredited program the
child is enrolled in.
Last updated 4/23/2021