At Tuesday night's State of the Union address, Ferguson was sitting in Michelle Obama's box:
Ferguson said in an interview that she was “stunned and thrilled” by the invitation and that she had “humbly” accepted. She said she viewed the invitation as evidence that President Obama cares about the plight of her school district and others that have faced extreme budget cuts and are financially strapped.
“This invitation means that education is important to our president and the success of students is important to our president,” she said. “Equity of education across the country for all students regardless of their zip code is important to our country.”
The Chester Upland school district, though, remains very much in danger. After the school board sued the state to keep the schools open, a judge ordered the state to provide enough money to keep the schools open (with paid, not volunteer, teachers) until a hearing in late February. The state's position continues to be that, despite massive layoffs in the district already, it's all the district's fault. However:
Chester Upland officials have countered the state’s claims of poor management, saying the elected board inherited financial debt compiled by a series of state-appointed boards that had run the district for 16 years.
The district’s finances were jeopardized further by state funding cuts last summer that came without a formatting change for charter allocations, school district officials have said.
In fact, the school board only regained control of the schools from the state in 2010, and nearly half of the funding for the Chester Upland district goes to charter schools, one of them run by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett's largest donor. Add on a 20 percent cut in the district's state funding, and you certainly have the ingredients for a disaster—one in this case only narrowly averted (so far) by the sacrifices of unionized teachers and support staff.