Chester Upland educators and support professionals agree to work without pay – again
Faced with the news that the financially strapped school district likely won't make payroll in September, the 243 members of Chester Upland EA and Chester Upland ESP decided they'll continue to show up for work so their students' schools can stay open.
Saddled with millions of dollars in payments to charter schools and without a dime in state funding coming in because of the budget impasse in Harrisburg, the school district has no ready cash.
"These people are the finest example of public education professionals," said PSEA President Jerry Oleksiak. "They are putting their students first and making personal sacrifices to ensure that Chester Upland's kids can come to school. I couldn't be more proud to be a teacher and stand with these amazing people."
How did this happen?
The crisis in Chester Upland School District is a tragic example of school funding cuts and ballooning charter school payments' devastating impact on communities already struggling with poverty.
Chester Upland is among the poorest communities in Pennsylvania, and relies heavily on state budget funding to educate its students:
- 4th out of 500 school districts in state funding per pupil
- 6th out of 500 school districts in residents in deep poverty
- 1st out of 500 school districts in students attending charter schools
Chester Upland School District's charter payment for special education students is more than $40,000 – the third highest payment in the state.
Without a state budget in place, Chester Upland won't receive any state funding.
Until something changes, educators and support professionals' willingness to work without pay is the only reason schools' doors remain open.
Unwavering commitment to their students
This is the second time that Chester Upland educators and support professionals have agreed to work without pay to keep schools open. In early 2012 nearly $1 billion in funding cuts to Pennsylvania schools forced Chester Upland into a similar crisis, and educators answered the call.
"We've always put our students first, and we always will,” said Michele Paulick, president of the Chester Upland Education Association (CUEA). “Our school district is in financial crisis and we're probably not going to get paid, but we're going to go to school next week, because the kids in our community need us, and we're going to be there for them."
"We're letting the families in Chester Upland know their kids can report for classes next week, and we'll be there to keep schools open for them," said Jacqueline Browne, president of the Chester Upland Education Support Personnel Association (CUESPA).
PSEA will continue to stand with the educators and support professionals in Chester Upland, and support them during this crisis.
"The people we elect to pass budgets and state policies need to fix this problem, and they need to do it immediately," said Oleksiak. “Chester Upland's students, families, and educators deserve the same support and respect as every other school district in Pennsylvania. They're not getting that support and respect, and it's about time our elected officials gave it to them."
Learn more about the crisis in Chester Upland and how you can help at www.psea.org/keepchesteruplandopen.