Article with links about Santorum's sweet, under-covered home-school deal: live in Virginia during his US Senate service for Pennsylvania, but home-school some of the kids in a Pennsylvania "virtual" school and reap $100,000 in benefits - - the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said the cost was $33,000-a-tear - - from Pennsylvania taxpayers
As various media outlets from Mother Jones to the Washington Post have reminded us in recent weeks, Santorum’s record as a home-schooler is ambiguous at the very least, and arguably hypocritical. From 2001 through at least 2004, when Santorum was serving in the Senate and living full-time in Loudoun County, Va., five of his children were enrolled in an online charter school based in Pennsylvania — a public school, albeit an unusual one — with computers, curricula and other educational services provided at taxpayer expense. According to the Penn Hills Progress, a newspaper in Santorum’s suburban Pittsburgh hometown that broke the story at the time, the local school district had spent approximately $100,000 educating the senator’s so-called home-schooled children, although they lived neither in the district nor in the state.
Santorum owned a modest three-bedroom, 2,000-square-foot house in Penn Hills (and reportedly still does), on which he paid about $2,000 a year in taxes. But owning a home is not sufficient to prove residency, and public records, neighborhood testimony and common sense all suggest that Santorum’s constantly enlarging family — his kids now range from age 3 to age 20 — never actually lived there. (At the time of the Penn Hills Progress investigation, Santorum’s wife’s niece and her husband were registered to vote at that address.)
Appearing to live in Pennsylvania was distinctly advantageous for the Santorums, because state law required school districts to pay 80 percent of the online charter-school tuition for local families who chose it. (No such law pertained in Virginia.) The Penn Hills district challenged Santorum’s local residency, and the ensuing dispute only ended when the senator withdrew his kids from the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School. Since 2006 the Santorum kids have reportedly been registered as Virginia home-schoolers.
When Penn Hills tried to bill Santorum for $72,000 that the state had withheld from the local education budget to cover the senator’s kids’ online tuition, he refused to pay. In the end, the Pennsylvania department of education was forced to refund most of that money to the local district. In other words, the Santorums presented themselves to the world as home-schoolers for at least three years, while Pennsylvania taxpayers picked up the bill for their kids’ education — and they actually lived in a different state. For a private citizen, this would have been an embarrassing ethical lapse, but somewhat short of criminal misconduct. For a politician whose reputation rests upon issues of character and integrity, it’s considerably more damning.