Teachers Decide To Work For Free After Budget Cuts Leave PA School District Without Funds For Salaries


Written by Tanya Somanader

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 children and 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 activities and 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.

This post was originally published by ThinkProgress.


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Photo from jenlight via flickr


Paula O.
Paula O5 years ago

this situation is awful and disturbing!

Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran5 years ago


Sarah M.
Sarah M5 years ago

so inspiring!

Travis A.
Travis A.6 years ago

These Teachers are True Heroes!!!

Travis A.
Travis A.6 years ago

I hope they Recall him , he is a really bad person .

Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe6 years ago

Gov. Tom Corbett sounds like a dimwit. I agree with letting special interest groups like tobacco and the oil and gas industry go without their tax breaks would be a better answer.

The teachers are the better guys here.

sandra m.
Past Member 6 years ago

Bless all of the teachers in the Chester Upland school district!! You are a rare sparkling example of your profession!...While others cheat and/or holler "MORE MONEY!" You's instead think of the children's well being first ....
Others across the U.S really should look at their priorities and think about whether they should be in teaching at all!

Dijana D.
Dijana D6 years ago

awesome! :)

Whitney Larsen
Whitney Larsen6 years ago

Modern day heroes. I hope that in the future, these students will realize how deeply these teachers cared for them. However, I disagree with Corbett's choice in funding cuts. To put education on the front lines, not a smart move. Does he realize he's supporting the non-education in the state he represents? That's one smart cookie.... :/

Genesis Merano
Genesis Merano6 years ago

These teachers are heroes.