Excerpted fromKathy Boccella, Inquirer Staff Writer
Chester Upland teachers and support staff voted Thursday to keep working despite learning that the district might not have money to pay them next month.
Two days after a Delaware County judge rejected a new financial recovery plan submitted by Chester Upland and state officials, its 223 teachers and support staff were told the district could not make its Sept. 9 payroll.
Michele Paulick, president of the Chester Upland Education Association, which represents the teachers, called the announcement from Superintendent Gregory Shannon and receiver Francis Barnes “horrible news.” But she said staffers decided to keep coming back, to keep schools open for about 3,800 students.
“We have no idea when that first paycheck is coming, but we’re going to stay here as long as we’re financially able,” she said.
It’s not the first time the staffers in the perennially struggling school district have been told they might not get paid, and it wasn’t entirely unexpected.
On Tuesday, the district lost a bid to severely reduce its payments for special education students attending charter schools and for cyber schools.
After a two-day hearing, Judge Chad F. Kenney agreed that reducing certain charter payments would solve some of the district’s problems, but did not approve the reduction request because it left unresolved how the district would pay its accumulated debt.
The ruling was a setback for Gov. Wolf, who had backed the plan, and for the district, which now pays charter schools $64 million – more than it gets in state aid – to educate about half the students in the district.
Wolf said Thursday that no decision had been made on whether to appeal the ruling.
Chester Upland has been in and out of financial crises for 25 years, and is under state control.
In January 2012, the district also said it couldn’t afford to pay its employees. The state came through with emergency funds to keep schools open, and workers never missed a paycheck.
The teachers’ union and another one for support staff also voted to adopt a resolution calling upon state elected officials “to take immediate, necessary action to ensure the solvency of the Chester Upland School District, ensure that the District remains open to serve the students who learn in its schools, and ensure that the constitutional obligation to provide for a ‘thorough and efficient’ public education is guaranteed for each and every student in Chester Upland.”