President invites Chester Upland teacher to State of the Union address

A Philadelphia-area teacher will attend Tuesday night’s State of the Union address as a guest of President Obama.

Elementary math and literacy teacher Sara Ferguson, who has been teaching in the Chester Upland School District for 20 years, said she was thrilled by the president’s invitation. The district is struggling to remain open.

“I was shocked, I was surprised and, most of all, I was humbled to be able to be a representative for so many deserving students not only in my school district — but across the nation,” Ferguson said. “To just be the face for those students whose voices have not been heard for so long.”

Earlier this month, district officials announced they would soon be unable to meet payroll. Ferguson, other teachers and support staff agreed to work temporarily without pay. Last week a federal judge ordered the state to pay the district $3.2 million to keep schools open while working to find a long-term solution to its financial problems.

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Ferguson said the president’s decision to invite her shows he is concerned about schoolchildren in Chester Upland, as well as other districts facing financial crises.

“Lawmakers have to stop balancing budgets on the backs of students. To provide quality programs takes resources, so those resources have to be placed in the public schools so we can provide each student with the education that they deserve,” Ferguson said. “It’s their right to have a quality education.”

Pennsylvania state legislators say they hope to reach an agreement with Gov. Tom Corbett to provide additional funding to keep Chester Upland students in class for the rest of the school year.

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