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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Another Cross to Bear for Santorum

Even as he struggles to convince his fellow conservatives that his PA colleague, Arlen Specter, is, so to speak, kosher as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman at a time when the Right is eagerly looking forward to a raft of lifetime appointment to the federal bench for True Believers, Sen. Rick Santorum is in a bit of trouble on the home front.
As AP reporter Jennifer Yates explains, the Penn Hills school district in suburban Pittsburgh is investigating complaints that taxpayers have spent about $100,000 providing Santorum’s children with internet-based educational services even though the family actually lives in Virginia.
The Santorum kids are benefitting from a “cyber-charter” law in PA that allows frequently travelling famlies to avail themsleves of distance learning opportunities at public expense. But the question is whether the Santorums are “residents” of Penn Hills in any meaningful way. They own a modest house in the school district, but don’t appear to have lived there, preferring a much posher residence in tony, horsy Leesburg, VA.
I do not believe in visiting the sins of the father on his children, and wouldn’t for a moment try to interpose political objections at the expense of the education of the Santorum clan; maybe the kids will become Democrats with enough schooling. But the junior Senator from Pennsylvania really does need to figure out, like every other Member of Congress, where he lives. I know it’s vitally important to him to become a Big-Time Washington Player, and he is said to look in the mirror and see a future President of the United States. But for this apostle of “family values,” family values ought to trump ambition. If he cannot bring himself to live in Pennsylvania (some Members of Congress actually sleep in their offices Tuesday through Thursday, and spend most of their time back home), then he should make it clear he lives elsewhere and act accordingly. The public schools in Leesburg are pretty good, and there are a variety of fine private and parochial schools in the vicinity as well.
And moreover, as a fervent supporter of charter public schools, it honks me off that Santorum is doing his own part to undermine the credibility of his own state’s charter laws. Charter public schools are primarily intended to offer new choices and a better guarantee of achievement for disadvantaged kids being failed by traditional schools. Their purpose is not to give United States Senators the opportunity to pretend to live in their home states, and to educate their children in the wealthiest exurbs of The Imperial City, with the taxpayers of their abandoned domiciles footing the bill.

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