Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum has said some pretty provocative things about public education on the campaign trail recently, declaring that it is not the job of government to educate children but rather the responsibility of parents.
That didn’t stop him from enrolling his children for a time in a Pennsylvania cyber charter school and insisting that taxpayers there pay for it, even though his children lived primarily in another state.
Earlier this month, Santorum told the Ohio Christian Alliance that if he becomes president, he would homeschool his children in the White House. He has homeschooled in the past.
“Most presidents homeschooled their children in the White House. … Parents educated their children because it was their responsibility,” he said.
Santorum’s antipathy toward government involvement in public education conflicts with his vote a decade to approve No Child Left Behind, the law that inserted the federal government strongly into the daily workings of public schools. He has said recently that his vote for NCLB was a mistake.
About a decade ago, Santorum and his wife, Karen, enrolled five of their children in the Western Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School. That was during the time that Santorum served as a U.S. senator from Pennsylvania.
According to a 2004 article in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette , the enrollment of the Santorum children created a controversy because the family spent most of its time then in Leesburg, Va., and officials in the Penn Hills School District were unhappy about having to pay for the attendance there. Under state law, school districts must pay fees for each student who lives in that district and chooses to attend a charter school.
Penn Hills officials complained to the Santorums, saying that they were not eligible to have their children’s schooling paid for by district taxpayers because state law says that a child is a resident of a school district in which his parents or guardian resides.
Santorum argued otherwise, saying he owned a house in the district and paid taxes there. Santorum was quoted in the Post-Gazette as saying at the time: “I defend it as I’m a taxpayer in Penn Hills, Pennsylvania. That’s where I pay my income tax, that’s where I pay my real estate tax, that’s where I pay wage taxes, state taxes, I pay taxes like any other state taxpayer. And most people who pay taxes to the school district, who claim that place as their only residence in Pennsylvania, which it is, usually have the right to be able to send their kids to school.”
Ultimately, the tuition bill was paid by the state Department of Education and the Santorums withdrew their children from the cyber charter school and homeschooled them, which they had been doing before they enrolled them in the cyber charter.
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