Thursday, September 21, 2006

Rick Santorum's YouTube Moment

Temper, temper, Sen. Santorum.
YouTube. com has posted a video of Santorum doing a major rant at a street fair on Camp Hill, Pa. The object of his ire: a woman who comes up while he is wading through the crowd, and takes him to task for have the Penn Hills School District pay for the cyberschooling of his home-school kids, who live in Virginia.
Santorum razzes her for her criticism -- and keeps after her even after the woman tries to walk away with a "have a nice day."
His basic argument: "It's my tax dollars going to work for me." He tells her he pays Pennsylvania taxes -- even though he lives in Virginia -- and that it was appropriate for the Penn Hills District to pay for the cyberschooling of five of his six children.
What he pays in taxes to Pennsylvania, "is far in excess of the money the state paid for that (cyberschooling)" Santorum tells the woman, identified only as a teacher. The YouTube excerpt is taken from PCN.
Santorum then launches into a rap against the "curious bias of the media around here," after a photographer for the Harrisburg Patriot-News goes to talk to the woman. Keep in mind: This is in Camp Hill, Pa., not in Philly or Pittsburgh.

I don't buy Santorum's assertion that he pays "far in excess" in local and Pa. taxes than the cyberschooling cost.
As near as I can tell, Santorum pays somewhere in the range of $7,000 and $9,000 a year in state and local taxes (the bulk of it to the state in the form of state income taxes).
Paying for the cyberschools cost the Penn Hills District about $33,000 a year, according to the district. Santorum disputes that number, saying it was closer to $17,000 a year. Recently, the state reimbursed the district the equivalent of $27,500 a year for the two years the Santorum children were enrolled in the cyberschool. Any number you take, though, is in excess of what he pays in Pa. and Penn Hills taxes.

23 Comments:

Blogger MBFlyerfan said...

You call that wigging out and throwing a tantrum? Give me a break.

1:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks to me like the question about the schooling of Santorum's kids hinges on residency requirements. If, like he says, he indeed pays taxes to Pennsylvania and none to Virginia, and his actions meet Pennsylvania residency requirements, then I think he acted in accordance with the law.

If the taxes people pay don't go far enough to cover their children's schooling, and the district considers that every family needs to cover the full cost of their childrens' schooling, then they need to raise taxes. Santorum's kids cost so much to school because there are so many of them, so a per-child school tax would appear to be in order.

The content of that video (where's the razz, BTW? He's obviously upset, possibly without justification, but I don't see where he razzes anyone) sheds more light on problems with the way we fund education in this state (or at least in the Penn Hills school district) than it does on Santorum.

What I want to know is whether or not Santorum violated residency requirements when he enrolled his kids in that cyber-school. Didn't Penn Hills just sue the state because the residency requirements were vague, as spelled out in the law?

Out of curiosity, what would the procedure be if he didn't meet the requirements but still wanted to send his kids to public school? He couldn't send them in Virginia, could he? Would he be disqualified from sending his kids to public school?

This seems like a fairly unique issue, and there are a lot of details about it that I'm missing, either because they aren't being covered in the media, or because I'm not reading the right articles.

1:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not a Santorum fan. Never voted for him, never will. But he did not lose his temper at all. He disagreed and in a gentlemanly fashion said so. What's wrong with that? By the way I think it is wrong for him to use the funds from PA to educate his kids in VA.

2:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Struck a raw nerve? Guilty conscience needs no accuser, Ricky.

2:14 PM  
Blogger rasphila said...

Santorum's problem doesn't hinge on technical arguments about residency requirements, whether or not he has a case that he acted legally. His critics think he acted wrongly in using public funds even if he was technically entitled to use them. He could have afforded to pay the school fee, and many other Senators in his position would have done so, both for ethical reasons and to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

It may be unfair to criticize Santorum's reading of the regulations. It is not unfair to suggest that he is guilty of ethical insensitivity and that his dogged defense of his actions shows poor judgment.

He could end this controversy very quickly by arranging to reimburse Penn Hills for the money. He hasn't done so, which is his choice to make. But choices have consequences. He and his supporters shouldn't be surprised that the furore hasn't died down. That is one of the consequences of actions that Santorum himself has chosen.

2:26 PM  
Blogger rasphila said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, let me ask this question: If Santorum were a poor or middle class average Joe instead of a U.S. Senator perceived by many to be in the pockets of big business, what should he do if he were in that situation? Should a U.S. Senator be required to act differently. Why or why not?

For the record, I think people have a point in saying that he may not have acted ethically, but I still think this is an interesting special case that merits more attention.

3:06 PM  
Anonymous phillydem said...

In a previous challenge to residency as defined for the purpose of sending one's children to a school district, the state court ruled that "residency" is defined as where at least one parent and the children actually "lay their heads" at night, meaning that they physically occupy a house or apt along with their furnishings, clothes, and other accroutrements of daily living. Clearly under this defination, the Santorums are not "residents" of the PHSD. Unfortunately the PHSD found out too late what was happening and
had their case thrown out strictly because they missed the filing deadline, NOT on the case's merits.
The fact that on appeal the state is reimbursing PHSD for at least some of the tuition tells me the state felt the Santorums did not meet the legal defination for residency as it applies to school districts.

3:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does this mean I get to pick and choose what my taxes pay for, too?

3:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So does a person in this situation lose their right to send their kids to a public school, yes or no?

5:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find it quite revealing that Santorum obviously thinks our woefully underfunded public schools are just fine for the "average joe," but inadequate for his precious children. What a hypocrite.

5:08 PM  
Anonymous phillydem said...

No, parents can send their kids to public schools. The Santorums could certainly send their kids to the Leesburg area public schools if they choose. For that matter they could send their kids to Penn Hills if they wanted except the kids would obviously have to live with the grandparents or other relatives in Penn Hills. The Santorum kids could've even continued in the cyber school, but the Santorums were not entitled to tuition reimbursement.
Personally, I believe the reason Santorum hasn't tried to pay back PHSD is because he can't afford to.
Remember, this is a guy whose parents still send him money to help out with his living expenses. I don't think he has 78k to spare.

5:21 PM  
Anonymous rms said...

As I understand it, there are a couple of issues involved here.

Rick Santorum can live most of the year in Fairfax Va and spend just a few nights a month at his house in Pennsylvania (or not even have a house in PA) and still be considered a PA citizen for voting purposes because the constitution makes this exemption for those working for the federal government. The same law that protects Santorum's voting rights in PA protects a GI serving in Iraq.

School residency laws are different. Usually the child must physically reside in the school district most of the school year. Some districts employ people to check on this, sometimes to extents that would seem far-fetched or extreme. When I was a foster parent for a child who was placed with us personally, we still had to get legal custody through the court so that the district we lived in could not claim he was actually living with a parent elsewhere in the state and just using our address to go to school there.

But there is a reason for doing this: each school child costs a certain amount to educate, and many districts, particularly excellent ones in the midst of less regarded districts, can't afford to let false addresses just slide by.

Rick Santorum's children do not physically reside in Penn Hill. They live in Fairfax VA, and may use all educational facilities available to the children of Fairfax, including public and charter schools. But VA law does not allow for cyber charter schools, which serve home-schooling parents, and PA's does, which is why Rick Santorum claimed, falsely, that his children were Penn Hill residents.

Your paying taxes to a school district is not what makes a child eligible to attend school there. Actually having the child residing in the district is what does it.

5:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for actually addressing my question, rms. Your post was very informative.

9:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Santorum doesn't have 78k to repay the Penn Hills School District for out-of-district services, what's he doing in a $750,000 house??? And why is he borrowing money from his parents? So his wife, a trained attorney, can hang out at home and make sure the kids are doing their homework, instead of riding the school bus with everybody else??? How many Pennsylvania voters can afford to live like this? Why shouldn't the Santorums earn the money to pay their own bills instead of making the taxpayer subsidize them? It's disgusting.

10:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What? Are you calling Santorum a Democrat or something? Too "Liberal" for you?? *LOL*

12:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't have children in any school district, and I pay $3,000 a year in property taxes to my local school. It turns out to be about 42 mills.

Is that fair?

12:35 PM  
Anonymous phillydem said...

To clarify my remark, I have no idea of the Santorum's cash flow or financial situation. Based on reading about Santorum's parents still sending him money and that he got what seems to be a sweetheart deal on the mortgage to his house, my own personal sense is that while the Santorums might not be living paycheck to paycheck, it doesn't seem like they have much to spare.

12:52 PM  
Anonymous phillydem said...

One other comment about how much Santorum pays in state tax, primarily the state income tax. Pennsylvania allows for residents to claim part-time residency on its income tax form. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that for the time claimed as out of state, no income tax is charged against earnings during that time.

The fact is we don't know if Santorum claims full-time or part-time residency on his state income tax so we really can't say what he pays in state taxes.

12:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If his comments in the video are to be believed, Santorum claims full time Pennsylvania residency when he does his taxes.

3:22 PM  
Anonymous phillydem said...

I hope he does because it's the right thing to do, but unless he opens his state income tax forms, we'll never really know for sure.

7:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Santorum has always thought public service means the public serves the Santorums--not the other way around. He needs to get his nose out of the taxpayers' trough.

9:30 AM  
Anonymous phillydem said...

Santorum just gave up the homestead exemption he'd claimed for his PH house. This was right before Pgh city council was to vote on, and pass, a bill aimed at reducing fraudulent claims.

7:30 PM  

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