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In early January, when Pennsylvania's Chester Upland school district ran out of money to pay teachers, but the teachers union passed a resolution that teachers would stay at work as long as they could afford to do so, math and literacy teacher Sara Ferguson was one of the leading voices explaining that decision. "We need the students to know that we’re here and we’re not abandoning them," she said.

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.

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Comment Preferences

  •  This screams Civil Rights abuses... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ontario, BlackSheep1, Stein
    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.
  •  Ed schultz has been covering this (5+ / 0-)

    She was on his TV show last week. What I don't understand is it is state law that you have to stay in school until 16, so  how can a state not fund a school district legally?

  •  Saw her on Ed Show (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Maverick80229

    "Rick Perry talks a lot and he's not very bright. And that's a combination I like in Republicans." --- James Carville

    by LaurenMonica on Wed Jan 25, 2012 at 08:36:22 AM PST

  •  An invitation won't pay the bills... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hardhatmama, Maverick80229, ontario

    emergency federal funds should be offered to this school district. It is outrageous that this district would be allowed to close. If they can find trillions to bail out banks, they can find the funds to bail this school district out.

    I wish the educator had been more cool about the invitation, and said something like: "I accept this invitation with the hope that President Obama recognizes how important it is to fund school districts that states can no longer afford to."

    •  Federally funding the district... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Maverick80229

      (...if the President even has the power to do that, which I'm not sure he does...)

      ...would just be an invitation to every right-wing state government to zero out state funding for all their lowest-income districts, move more of the state's money to franchise charters and private schools, and then tell the feds "your move."

      It would basically be handing them a bunch of hostages and saying "here are some people to point guns at, now make some demands of me."

      If you think they wouldn't do that, you haven't been paying attention to the GOP lately. Scott Walker would do that in a heartbeat if he could.

      "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

      by JamesGG on Wed Jan 25, 2012 at 10:05:34 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  suburb of Philly. I can't express how much I (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Maverick80229, ontario

    admire these teachers.  they are the true salt of the earth.

    btw fuck Tom Corbett.

    This comment is dedicated to my mellow Adept2U and his Uncle Marcus

    by mallyroyal on Wed Jan 25, 2012 at 09:13:39 AM PST

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