- The Washington Times - Friday, December 31, 2004

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — State lawmakers want to revise Pennsylvania’s “cyberschool” law after a dispute over taxpayer money spent on the children of U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum.

Legislators need to clarify which students may enroll in Internet-based schools at taxpayer expense, said state Rep. James Roebuck, the ranking Democrat on the House Education Committee.

“Taxpayers have enough of a responsibility for trying to educate kids who are bona fide, legitimate residents,” he said. “They shouldn’t have to be paying for kids who aren’t residents of that district.”

The state’s 2002 cyberschool law requires school districts to pay for any resident students enrolled in an Internet-based school. But it does not explicitly say that law applies to children from families who maintain a Pennsylvania residence while living outside the state.

Last month, some Penn Hills School District board members objected that Mr. Santorum’s children attended the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School at district expense because Mr. Santorum’s family primarily lives at a $757,000 home in Virginia.

The Republican senator also maintains a Penn Hills home worth about $106,000 near his in-laws, pays taxes and is considered a legal resident of Penn Hills by the state Attorney General’s Office.

Amid criticism of the arrangement, Mr. Santorum agreed to withdraw his children from the cyberschool and resume homeschooling them. Neither the cyberschool nor the senator has offered to reimburse the school district, and Mr. Santorum has said he did nothing wrong.

The Penn Hills district has asked the state Education Department to review Mr. Santorum’s case, although the department itself has not adopted any guidelines.

Penn Hills school board member Erin Vecchio said she believes a 2000 state Supreme Court decision made clear what constitutes residency.

The court ordered the Cumberland Valley School District to cover the tuition of a boy who attended a private school for disabled children in Montgomery County, even though his mother maintained a second home in another school district.

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