It’s already been a difficult and tense year for the teachers and students at the Chester Upland School District. Education advocates say the district’s financial woes are a result of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett’s $860 million in public school funding cuts.
In this age of tight budgets, Chester Upland is not alone.
So far this month, Chester Upland officials announced that the district soon would not be able to meet payroll, which prompted teachers to agree to work anyway — at least temporarily. Then a federal judge ordered the state to advance the district $3.2 million. Problem solved? Not by a long shot.
Chester Upland officials said they expect the money will keep them afloat — and paying teachers – only through the beginning of February.
The problems can be traced back to a major move by Corbett a few months ago, said Paul Gottlieb of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, a teachers union.
“The governor’s cutting $866 million from the state education budget was the trigger that basically permitted or enabled the school district to fall flat on its face,” Gottlieb said
Gottlieb said Chester Upland could be just the first in a series of Pennsylvania districts that simply don’t have the money to pay their bills.
“The Harrisburg School District, the York City School District, Allentown School District, the Reading School District and on the west coast there’s a district called Sto-Rox and another called Duquesne which are, if not totally out of money at this point, are on the verge of being totally out of money,” Gottlieb said. “Duquesne has been in straits for many, many years now.”
Timothy Eller, the press secretary for the state Department of Education, said the governor and the secretary of education are committed to ensuring that Chester Upland schools stay open for the rest of the year. When asked if that would mean more state dollars flowing to Chester Upland, Eller declined to offer details.
This disclosure, the Pennsylvania State Education Association helps fund WHYY’s coverage of the capitol in Harrisburg.