Editorial: Home school / Santorum, not the state, should pay Penn Hills

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A righteous Christian who espouses family values would not charge a Pennsylvania school district where he and his children do not live for his youngsters' education. So it was surprising when Rick Santorum, a man who wears his religion on his Senate ID and who wrote a book called, "It Takes a Family," did just that.

When news reports showed Sen. Santorum living in Virginia and renting to relatives a three-bedroom Penn Hills house he owns, he took one step toward atonement. He withdrew his five children from the cyber education program that Penn Hills School District paid for. That saved Penn Hills taxpayers about $38,000 a year.

But a responsible man would reimburse Penn Hills for the $72,000 that the Education Department withheld from the district to pay tuition to the cyber school over two years for five children who did not live in Penn Hills.

Mr. Santorum hasn't done that. In fact, he plans to let the state give Penn Hills $55,000 of the tuition. Education Department officials said the payment will cost less than defending against a lawsuit Penn Hills filed over whether the district retained the right to challenge the senator's residency.

That means all Pennsylvania taxpayers will fork over the tuition money for children who live with their mother and father in Virginia.

Where they live is significant. Pennsylvania law says schools must educate children whose parents reside in the district. Mr. Santorum has argued that he lives in Penn Hills because he owns a house, pays real estate taxes and is registered to vote there.

Maybe that's good enough for him to run for the Senate in Pennsylvania. But it's not enough to justify Penn Hills paying for five of his six youngsters' education.

That requires him or his wife to actually reside in Penn Hills. And they don't. Sen. Santorum concedes that he and his family spend the vast majority of their time at their $757,000 home in Leesburg, Va. When questions were raised, the senator said that when visiting Pennsylvania, he and his wife stayed with his in-laws, and some of their children slept in the Penn Hills house he owns, bunking with the senator's niece and her husband, who lived there.

If Mr. Santorum is true to the principled and honest image he tries to project, he must not allow taxpayers to cover his debts. He must pay his penance to Penn Hills.



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