Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Leave the poor boy alone

I hate to say this, it hurts me to have to say this, but the local media needs to leave Rick Santorum alone about his kids attending a cyber charter school. The Penn Hills School District is in a tizzy because Santorum, while maintaining a Penn Hills residence, lives most of the time in Virginia, as do his children, but the district, as the media has told it, has to pay for his kids to attend a cyber charter school.

First, the facts: Charter schools are independent public schools, freed from most state regulations, which have to receive permission to operate from the districts in which they are located. When a child attends a charter school, most of the state subsidy their home school district would have received goes instead to the charter school. Although the home school district gets to keep a chunk--about 20 percent, if memory serves--for administrative costs, public school officials say that charter schools end up costing them money. (Primarily because they are still responsible for things like transportation, and because, they say, the loss of pupils ruins their economies of scale.) Cyber charter schools, because they offer instruction online, can draw students from all across the state.

So what Penn Hills is really upset about, in my opinion, is the charter school law, particularly as it pertains to the cyber charter schools that operate outside the district's borders and thus outside their control. And they are using Santorum--who, regardless of where his family lives most of the time, continues to be a taxpayer of the district and of Pennsylvania--as a straw man to protest the law.

Now, Santorum is a hypocrite in one respect, which Sally Kalson points out in her PG column today. When he first ran for Congress in 1990, he bashed his opponent, Rep. Doug Walgren, for living outside his district. A lot of challengers employ this tactic to portray an incumbent as out of touch with the folks home. And most, after they are elected, end up doing the exact same thing. Members of Congress may be public servants, but no one should expect them to work thousands of miles from where their families live.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd have to respectfully disagree.

The fact that his primary residence in Penn Hills is a small 2 bedroom home with a millage of $2000 a year and the fact that taxpayers in Penn Hills are paying over $100,000 for only a small segment of the Santorum clan is a major factor driving this.

With seven kids and his salary he has been able to purchase a lovely home (a $400,000 McMansion by the way) in Herndon Va to raise them in and your gonna tell the mechanic and secretary in Penn Hills that he raises them in a 2 bedroom house on the weekend that he rarely visits?

Yes, he should not be attacked for raising his family in Virginia to be closer to him but the fact that he is also residing in Fairfax County, which has one of the best public school systems in the nation, makes it even more sickening to make Penn Hills pay for the tab if you ask me.

Still that being said, it doesn’t help when you can compare him to Congressman Doyle who lives in a small apartment complex that is shared with other congressmen and comes home to his family on the weekends. When you can compare his stance to former Congressman Coyne who stayed in a small one bedroom place and came home to take care of his mother in Oakland on the weekends.

It’s all about image and the picture doesn’t look good for Rick.

10:19 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

The point is that he is not being given any privileges that would not be enjoyed by any other Penn Hills taxpayer who chose to enroll their children in a cyber charter school. I happen to know that he is an advocate of homeschooling, and a lot of homeschoolers have chosen cyber schools. This has raised the ire of a lot of school districts, who previously bore no responsibility for the costs of educating those children.

Now, none of this is to say that there aren't problems with the charter school law and the way they are funded. But that's another issue. He's just a convenient poster boy for Penn Hills.

8:43 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

To those who don't know, J Potts was one of the best education reporters this city ever produced. He speaks with some authority here, and he's giving you a pretty good insight into how this "story" arose, and who benefits from its airing.

6:02 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

I'm blushing.

6:08 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't get a big head about it. You're still wrong about Iraq and Kerry.

7:11 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pennsylvania people are cheap, too:

7:27 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

I never said Kerry would win. I merely said we would be better off if he did. And I'll wait to be proven wrong.

9:08 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're wrong about Kerry not because of any election prediction, but because you think he would've made a better president. You can't be proved wrong because he wasn't elected. By proposing a shadow office of a Kerry presidency is inherently unfair to Bush, who stole the election fair and square.

12:03 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

True, we can never know what a Kerry presidency would be like. I hope Bush's second term won't make me long to find out.

1:25 PM


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