Chester Upland teachers, ESPs pledge to work for delayed pay during school district's financial crisis
Delaware County's Chester Upland School District is on the verge of financial collapse. In June, its state funding was cut by $8.4 million, a 14 percent reduction in state aid. By December, the school distirct was virtually out of money, unable to meet its payroll and pay its bills. District officials asked the governor for an advance on the district's subsidy payments, but his education secretary refused.
Even though they did not expect to be paid after January 4, the school district's teachers and support professionals agreed to work without pay. On January 17, as part of a court-mediated settlement, the state agreed to advance the school district $3.2 million. The temporary solution will allow the school district to meet payroll and cover its expenses for a few more weeks - through the end of January.
However, the school district and it students are still moving toward the brink, with no promise of additional state support after the $3.2 million advance is exhausted. Gov. Corbett has indicated that he does not plan to send additional money to the district. In a January 17 interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, Corbett said "There are other schools that are just behind Chester Upland in their economic problems. What is the incentive for them to do it right if you keep rewarding Chester Upland?"
“This is a sad and shocking time for our students,” said Zoranski. “Once again, the kids who learn in the Chester Upland School District are victims of callous indifference from the administration of Gov. Tom Corbett. Our students need help. We need the state to help them.
“We also have a message for the students of the district – we will be at work tomorrow, so come to school prepared to learn,” Zoranski said.
Video: Chester Upland educators speak out
According to Zoranski and Browne, the school district’s employees plan to continue working for as long as they are able, even if the school district fails to pay them in the near future.
“We are committed to the students in our schools,” Zoranski said. “We’re willing to delay our own compensation so that the students can keep coming to school. We plan to keep showing up and doing our jobs. Our students need us now more than ever.”
Zoranski and Browne noted that Chester Upland has one of the highest student poverty rates in Pennsylvania and is dependent on state and federal sources for most of its funding ($89 million of its current $110 million budget). The district has already made drastic cuts to its educational program in response to the recent state funding reductions signed into law by Gov. Tom Corbett.
“Bad decisions in Harrisburg caused these problems,” Browne said. “Now, Chester Upland’s children are looking to Harrisburg for solutions. If our leaders can’t find them, our students’ future is at risk.”
Zoranski and Browne appealed to the community of Chester Upland, and particularly to the creditors of the district employees, to be patient while efforts to resolve the financial crisis continue.
A resolution adopted by the local unions states that the employees “will work as long as we are individually able, even with delayed compensation, if the current financial crisis causes the Chester Upland School District to fail to meet its payroll on time.”