Pennsylvania Teachers Work for Free after Budget Cuts

chester upland classroom

Chester Upland High School classroom

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

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 childrenand 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.

tanya somanaderChester 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 activitiesand 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.

Tanya Somanader


  1. says

    another fucking IDIOT at the helm of a political office that has NO idea what he’s doing, just like obama.  I applaud the teachers working for free. although they shouldn’t have to.

  2. Erika says

    Admiring what you are doing. god bless you and the pay off will be so great that you will not believe it.. Education is all we have left in our world, without it our children will suffer the consequences greatly, and with people like you our world is a better one.

    Thank you.

    Erika Cardenas
    Pasadena California

  3. Joe Weinstein says

    Rick, please clarify.

    You make a point of saying that the HEADLINE lies. So, are you trying to tell us that the headline is wrong but the text is correct? That the teachers decided to work without pay but are not actually doing so??

    You also state, as a general rule, that ‘NOBODY works without pay’. This claim is obviously false if ‘pay’ refers to money and material compensation, as in the article, but could well be true if you have in mind a broader definition of ‘pay’ – including volunteers’ satisfaction and slaves’ relief (from otherwise being starved or beaten).

  4. Jo says

    Wow, I just don’t know how to respond to you Rick. I have never responded to anyone on this site before so you have the honor of being the first. How callous and unfeeling and sad you must feel inside. There are indeed people in this world who value people over money and these teachers value their students more than money. I probably couldn’t say the same about you. Maybe try volunteering somewhere and get your humanity back please.

  5. says

    Rick: What a dreary, hateful comment.

    Why would you want police officers and firemen and pubic hospital nurses and teachers to work for free?

    Don’t you value the service they provide to your community?

    And how can you say these teachers are not working for free? Do you think the reporter is lying?

    The anger and hatefulness and fear on the Right always amazes me.

    — Dick Price

  6. kagrant says

    WOW! Do teachers also live free? As in free food, free shelter, free clothing, free transportation, free health care…free everything…?

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