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Close school loophole

December 31, 2004

It's time for Pennsylvania to take steps to close a loophole that allows people who don't actually live in the state to bill their local school district for the cost of sending their children to a so-called "cyberschool."

If you're wondering who would burden a school district in such a way, you haven't heard about the case of U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum., R-Pa.

Santorum, whose family lives in Virginia near Washington, D.C., enrolled his children in a cyberschool that cost the Penn Hills School District in suburban Pittsburgh more than $100,000.

Santorum has since withdrawn the children, saying that he and his wife will home-school them. He maintains he did nothing wrong, however, and The Associated Press reports that he has not offered to reimburse the district.

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An aide to Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader David Brightbill calls it an "isolated case." But there's a question of fairness that needs to be answered.

If the state's Department of Education can advise a local school district to turn down cyberschool payments for a child whose parents did missionary work in Kenya, why should Santorum get a pass?

Although this issue has the potential for becoming a political football, we believe that there's a simple solution. Those who want local school districts to pay for cyberschools should be required to appear, with the child, at school district headquarters at least once a week.

That would rule out reimbursement for both the missionaries' child and Sen. Santorum's children. But both of those families voluntarily decided to do jobs that take them out of the district. It should not be up to those who live in the district to pay the school bills of those who no longer live there.

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