Sen. Rick Santorum (search) and his wife will immediately begin home-schooling their five school-age children after they drew criticism from a school board member for sending them to an Internet-based school paid for by taxpayers.

A member of the Penn Hills school board said last week that the district has paid about $100,000 for the Santorums' children to attend the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School (search). Erin Vecchio said Santorum has never lived in the district, despite owning a two-bedroom house there; the family of six lives in a home in Leesburg, Va., so the senator can be close to Washington, D.C.

In a statement issued late Wednesday and posted on the senator's Web site, Santorum said they would withdraw their children from the cyber charter school.

"The school district has just informed us that after reviewing our situation, only children who live in a community on a full time basis are eligible to be educated in a public cyber charter school program," Santorum said. "Karen and I believe it is important for our family to be with me when I am working in Washington; as I always say the most important job I have is as a husband and a father."

The Republican senator and chairman of the Senate Republican Caucus (search) said the family will resume home-schooling (search) the children. The change was first reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Thursday.

Vecchio, who is also head of the local Democratic committee, said she was thrilled with the senator's decision, but still wants him to pay the district back.

"He's trying to say this is political. This is not political. This is a mother of three in a low-income school district," Vecchio said Thursday.

A spokeswoman for Santorum had said the senator and his wife divided their time between their Virginia home and the one in Penn Hills, which they bought in 1997.

Vecchio brought the residency issue up at a school board meeting last week; later, Rep. T.J. Rooney, chairman of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, called on Santorum to refund the money to the district.

In his statement, Santorum said he had the approval of the Penn Hills School District while the children attended the cyber school. Cyber school students access their assignments and teachers primarily through school Web sites using their own computers, which can be located anywhere.

The Santorums bought the small Penn Hills in 1997 for $87,800, and it was assessed for $106,000 last year, records show. The couple's home in Leesburg, Va., was assessed at $757,000 this year, tax records show.

Under Pennsylvania's 2002 cyber school law, the district in which a student lives must pay the cost of tuition for students enrolled in cyber charter schools. Virginia has no such provision.

The school superintendent in Penn Hills, Patricia Gennari, did not immediately return a call for comment Thursday.

Santorum lived in the Pittsburgh suburb of Mount Lebanon while working at a Pittsburgh law firm in the 1980s. In 1990, when he ran for Congress against incumbent Doug Walgren, he criticized the seven-term representative for living with his family in McLean, Va.

In 1994, he was elected to the U.S. Senate. He sold his home in Mount Lebanon and moved to Virginia in 1995. His spokesman at the time told The Associated Press that Santorum planned to buy a smaller home to replace the one he was selling, but the Washington-area residence would be his primary one.