Teachers Decide To Work For Free After Budget Cuts Leave Pennsylvania School District Without Funds For Salaries
By Tanya Somanader/ ThinkProgress.org from L.A. Progressive | http://bit.ly/yml2l8
Chester Upland High School classroom
January 6, 2012 :: The Chester Upland School District in Delaware County, Pennsylvania suffered a serious setback when Gov. Tom Corbett (R) slashed $900 million in education funds from the state budget. The cuts landed hardest on poorer districts, and Chester Upland, which predominantly serves African-American childrenand relies on state aid for nearly 70 percent of its funding, expects to fall short this school year by $19 million.
Faced with such a shortage of funds, the school district informed its staff that it will not be able to pay their salaries come Wednesday. So the teachers decided to work for free. As one teacher put it, students “need to be educated, so we intend to be on the job”:
At a union meeting at Chester High School on Tuesday night, the employees passed a resolution saying they would stay on “as long as we are individually able.”
Columbus Elementary School math and literacy teacher Sara Ferguson, who has taught in Chester Upland for 21 years, said after the meeting, “It’s alarming. It’s disturbing. But we are adults; we will make a way.The students don’t have any contingency plan. They need to be educated, so we intend to be on the job.”
The school board and the unions separately begged Corbett to provide financial aid for the district, but Corbett turned each request down. Pennsylvania’s Education Secretary Ron Tomalis told the board that it “had failed to properly manage its finances and would not get any additional funds.” Chester Upland was forced to lay off “40 percent of its professional staff and about half of its unionized support staff before school began last fall.” That leaves 200 professionals and 65 support staff to manage a school with class sizes of over 40 students.
Chester Upland is not the only district desperately trying to stay afloat. Corbett’s cuts forced one school district to enforce wage freezes and cut extracurricular activitiesand another turned to actually using sheep instead of lawnmowers to cut grass at two of its schools. As ThinkProgress’s Travis Waldron pointed out, Corbett could relieve school districts if he let special interest groups like tobacco and the oil and gas industry go without their tax breaks. But he seems to prefer allowing teachers to go without pay.
TANYA SOMANADER is a reporter/blogger for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Tanya grew up in Pepper Pike, Ohio and holds a B.A. in international relations and history from Brown University. Prior to joining ThinkProgress, Tanya was a staff member in the Office of Senator Sherrod Brown, working on issues ranging from foreign policy and defense to civil rights and social policy.
“We are currently unable to fund the district’s payroll expenses after January 4, 2012”
Members of the Chester Upland School District Community:
It has been a pleasure to serve as your acting superintendent. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with you to implement best and sound practices to continue moving the school district in a positive direction. My interim term ends on December 31, 2011. As I prepare to leave, I do so after having provided a foundation for my successor to build upon in the days ahead. I have pledged my continuing support and complete cooperation.
Since my appointment in October, much has been accomplished including: securing the continuation of the district’s Title I funding; hiring certified teachers at Science and Discovery and Allied Health High Schools; hiring a permanent chief business manager for the district; appointing a deputy acting superintendent; identifying qualified candidates for consideration as acting superintendent for the rest of this school year; and recommending a timeline for hiring a permanent superintendent. I sincerely believe the transition of leadership will be accomplished in a smooth and efficient manner.
We now face a very challenging financial crisis. We are currently unable to fund the district’s payroll expenses after January 4, 2012. However, I assure you that the members of the school board and the district administration are doing everything possible to identify a solution. We are working cooperatively with the labor unions, the Delaware County Superintendents, the Delaware County Intermediate Unit and the Pennsylvania Department of Education. In addition to making a formal appeal to Governor Corbett for the funding needed, the Board members continue to wait for the Governor’s personal response to Board President Wanda Mann’s letter detailing the severity of our current financial situation. Please visit the school district website in the coming weeks for updates on this and other highly important matters. Information will be shared as soon as it is available.
I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to positively contribute to the Chester Upland learning community. Special thanks to the board members for entrusting me this huge responsibility as well as to the community advocates for being so passionately supportive.
God bless you one and all,
Levi Wingard, Ed.D.
Full coverage from Google News | http://bit.ly/zJRWtI
Delaware County Daily Times - Jan 6, 2012
Jeffrey E. Piccola, R-15, of Dauphin County, urged State Secretary of Education Ronald Tomalis to declare the Chester Upland School District financially distressed and implement a board of control to oversee the district's finances. ...
Delaware County Daily Times - Jan 5, 2012
Jeffrey E. Piccola, R-15, of Dauphin County, has called for Secretary of Education Ronald Tomalis to declare the Chester Upland School District a “district in financial distress” and consider implementing a board of control to oversee the district's ...
ThinkProgress - 20 hours ago
By Tanya Somanader on Jan 6, 2012 at 3:55 pm The Chester Upland School District in Delaware County, Pennsylvania suffered a serious setback when Gov. Tom Corbett (R) slashed $900 million in education funds from the state budget. ...
Delaware County Daily Times - Jan 6, 2012
Dinniman also asked where the students would go if the Chester Upland schools shut down. “We cannot tell another district to accept the students … you can't force other districts to take the students,” he said. Dinniman argued that the only option left ...
Delaware County Daily Times - Jan 4, 2012
By JOHN KOPP The Chester Upland School District's employee associations announced today that they plan to continue working as long as they are able, even if the district fails to meet payroll. A message posted on the district's web site by outgoing ...
Philadelphia Public School Notebook (blog) - Jan 5, 2012
Chester-Upland School District One of the state's poorest districts, Chester-Upland became the experimental playground for an ideologically driven state takeover in 2000 that forced education management organizations and charters upon an already ...
Gather.com - 14 hours ago
The budget cuts to the Chester Upland School District have already left the disadvantaged district struggling before the loss of the more funds. Class sizes are over 40 students per classroom and the staff has already been cut by over 40 percent to the ...
The Republic - Jan 4, 2012
AP CHESTER, Pa. — Teachers and support staff at a suburban Philadelphia school district say they will remain on the job for as long as they are able even if the district is unable to pay them. The Chester Upland School District says it cannot meet ...
Newsworks.org (blog) - Jan 5, 2012
By Shannon McDonald Chester Upland School District is hurting, and the petitions to the state for assistance continue. The latest comes from Sen. Jeffrey Piccola. The Dauphin County Republican has written to Pa. Secretary of Education Ronald Tomalis ...