Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Revives Phony Santorum Scandal

Howard Richman
The Democrat-leaning Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is trying to revive the so-called "scandal" that the Democrats trumpeted during their successful campaign to unseat Rick Santorum in 2006.

Other news outlets are starting to pick up the Post-Gazette's claims.  For example, in an article published on February 14 and linked to by the Drudge Report ("Santorum's Electability Pitch Undermined by 2006 Senate Reelection Loss"), Bloomberg reports:

Santorum's 2006 loss came after he was accused by Democrats of being hypocritical for moving his family to suburban Virginia, yet still claiming a property tax deduction and tuition reimbursement in Pennsylvania. The school district where his Penn Hills home was located paid $55,000 to reimburse the online education of his children through the state's Cyber Charter School program, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The state repaid the district in a legal settlement after a Democratic school board member challenged the reimbursement.

Here's what really happened.  From 1996 through 2001, Senator Santorum and his wife Karen homeschooled their children privately in Pennsylvania, submitting their affidavits and portfolios each year to the Penn Hills School District for review.  Each year, they saved the Penn Hills School District the cost of the Santorum children's education.

Beginning in the fall of 2001, the Santorums enrolled their children in Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, a public school founded by one of Pennsylvania's public school districts which provides free internet-based education to children across Pennsylvania.

Internet-based public education competes with brick-and-mortar school public education in Pennsylvania.  It is growing rapidly, despite receiving only about 80% of the amount that the brick-and-mortar schools receive per child.  It lets PA residents learn from home using Pennsylvania's public school curriculum.  Being internet-based, it can be made available to residents who are serving their communities in the military or the legislature.

But at the November 2004 Penn Hills School Board meeting, Erin Vecchio, a member of the board who is also the Democratic chair of Penn Hills, objected to the school district continuing to pay for the education of Santorum's children.  By this time, the Santorums were living most of the time in a suburb of Washington, D.C., although they continued to pay real estate taxes and wage taxes in Penn Hills.  In response to the complaint, the Santorums immediately pulled their children out of the cyber-school and resumed private homeschooling.

The next month, the Penn Hills School Board filed a complaint with the PA Department of Education asking that the Santorums be required to reimburse the district for the costs of their children's public education.  But in July 2005, the PA Department of Education summarily denied that request.  The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported ("Penn Hills loses Santorum cyber school tuition fight"):

"Penn Hills' inexplicable failure to object within the statutorily mandated timeline, or even within a reasonable approximation of that timeline, nullifies its tardy objection," [hearing officer Barry] Kramer stated. "Absent a showing of fraud, misrepresentation, a significant change in circumstances of residency or some other circumstance, it would be unreasonable and unfair to allow school districts an unlimited temporal opportunity to challenge a child's residency. To do so would deprive cyber charter schools of any certainty regarding their budgets or administrative operations for the current year or years past."

Unfortunately, 2006 was a bad year for Republicans, and Santorum lost to pro-life Democrat Bob Casey, the son of popular pro-life former governor Robert P. Casey.

This year's election, on the other hand, could give Republicans reason to hope.  To that end, as Rick Santorum gains ground in the primaries, expect Democrats to viciously beat the drum on Santorum's schooling "scandal."

The author is executive director of Pennsylvania Homeschoolers Accreditation Agency, one of the homeschool organizations recognized by the PA Department of Education to give diplomas to graduates of private homeschooling.  He and his father and son maintain a blog at www.idealtaxes.com and co-authored the 2008 book Trading Away Our Future: How to Fix Our Government-Driven Trade Deficits and Faulty Tax System Before it's Too Late, published by Ideal Taxes Association.

The Democrat-leaning Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is trying to revive the so-called "scandal" that the Democrats trumpeted during their successful campaign to unseat Rick Santorum in 2006.

Other news outlets are starting to pick up the Post-Gazette's claims.  For example, in an article published on February 14 and linked to by the Drudge Report ("Santorum's Electability Pitch Undermined by 2006 Senate Reelection Loss"), Bloomberg reports:

Santorum's 2006 loss came after he was accused by Democrats of being hypocritical for moving his family to suburban Virginia, yet still claiming a property tax deduction and tuition reimbursement in Pennsylvania. The school district where his Penn Hills home was located paid $55,000 to reimburse the online education of his children through the state's Cyber Charter School program, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The state repaid the district in a legal settlement after a Democratic school board member challenged the reimbursement.

Here's what really happened.  From 1996 through 2001, Senator Santorum and his wife Karen homeschooled their children privately in Pennsylvania, submitting their affidavits and portfolios each year to the Penn Hills School District for review.  Each year, they saved the Penn Hills School District the cost of the Santorum children's education.

Beginning in the fall of 2001, the Santorums enrolled their children in Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, a public school founded by one of Pennsylvania's public school districts which provides free internet-based education to children across Pennsylvania.

Internet-based public education competes with brick-and-mortar school public education in Pennsylvania.  It is growing rapidly, despite receiving only about 80% of the amount that the brick-and-mortar schools receive per child.  It lets PA residents learn from home using Pennsylvania's public school curriculum.  Being internet-based, it can be made available to residents who are serving their communities in the military or the legislature.

But at the November 2004 Penn Hills School Board meeting, Erin Vecchio, a member of the board who is also the Democratic chair of Penn Hills, objected to the school district continuing to pay for the education of Santorum's children.  By this time, the Santorums were living most of the time in a suburb of Washington, D.C., although they continued to pay real estate taxes and wage taxes in Penn Hills.  In response to the complaint, the Santorums immediately pulled their children out of the cyber-school and resumed private homeschooling.

The next month, the Penn Hills School Board filed a complaint with the PA Department of Education asking that the Santorums be required to reimburse the district for the costs of their children's public education.  But in July 2005, the PA Department of Education summarily denied that request.  The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported ("Penn Hills loses Santorum cyber school tuition fight"):

"Penn Hills' inexplicable failure to object within the statutorily mandated timeline, or even within a reasonable approximation of that timeline, nullifies its tardy objection," [hearing officer Barry] Kramer stated. "Absent a showing of fraud, misrepresentation, a significant change in circumstances of residency or some other circumstance, it would be unreasonable and unfair to allow school districts an unlimited temporal opportunity to challenge a child's residency. To do so would deprive cyber charter schools of any certainty regarding their budgets or administrative operations for the current year or years past."

Unfortunately, 2006 was a bad year for Republicans, and Santorum lost to pro-life Democrat Bob Casey, the son of popular pro-life former governor Robert P. Casey.

This year's election, on the other hand, could give Republicans reason to hope.  To that end, as Rick Santorum gains ground in the primaries, expect Democrats to viciously beat the drum on Santorum's schooling "scandal."

The author is executive director of Pennsylvania Homeschoolers Accreditation Agency, one of the homeschool organizations recognized by the PA Department of Education to give diplomas to graduates of private homeschooling.  He and his father and son maintain a blog at www.idealtaxes.com and co-authored the 2008 book Trading Away Our Future: How to Fix Our Government-Driven Trade Deficits and Faulty Tax System Before it's Too Late, published by Ideal Taxes Association.