Rick Santorum suggests opposition to public schooling

Rick Santorum

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Updated 12:47 p.m. Thursday

Campaigning in Idaho on Tuesday, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum suggested that he is opposed to a public school system overseen by the government.

"We didn't have government-run schools for a long time in this country, for the majority of the time in this country," he said. "We had private education. We had local education. Parents actually controlled the education of their children. What a great idea that is."

Santorum's campaign did not respond to multiple requests for an explanation of whether he was calling for an end to public schooling as it now exists. But the former Pennsylvania senator has previously made his antagonism known. Campaigning in March, Santorum took a shot at public schools.

"Just call them what they are," he said. "Public schools? That's a nice way of putting it. These are government-run schools."

Santorum makes a point of his support for home schooling. All of his children have been home schooled, and he has even suggested he would home school in the White House, a situation that he said "would certainly be a shock to the establishment."

The Hill newspaper mined Santorum's 2005 book It Takes a Family for his views on schooling. In that book, Santorum called "mass education" an "aberration."

"Never before and never again after their years of mass education will any person live and work in such a radically narrow, age-segregated environment," wrote Santorum. "It's amazing that so many kids turn out to be fairly normal, considering the weird socialization they get in public schools."

He added: "In a home school, by contrast, children interact in a rich and complex way with adults and children of other ages all the time. In general, they are better-adjusted, more at ease with adults, more capable of conversation, more able to notice when a younger child needs help or comfort, and in general a lot better socialized than their mass-schooled peers."

Santorum has not always home schooled his children, however. When Santorum was serving in the Senate, he decided to effectively move his family to Virginia - a situation that would cause political problems for the then-Pennsylvania senator.

Santorum did not enroll his kids in local Pennsylvania schools, and he did not home school them: Instead, he enrolled five of them in the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School. The "cyber" school is considered a public school, as Mother Jones notes, where students have to meet state requirements. It also provides free computers and other perks, and the Penn Hills school district ended up shelling out $38,000 per year for the Santorum children.

Santorum reportedly ended up withdrawing his children from the school. He did not repay the district, though the state ultimately paid the district $55,000 to cover the tuition fees.

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