After PA School District Goes Broke, Incredible Teachers Agree to Keep Teaching Without Pay
How's this for a crisis in American education? One school district outside of Philadelphia is going broke. Straight-up broke. The Chester Upland school district has already laid off 40 percent of its teachers and professional staff and about half of its support staff, raising class sizes to 40 students. The district has no superintendent and teachers have not gotten raises they were supposed to get. And now the district does not have money to pay its teachers. At all. It is, in case you hadn't noticed, the middle of the school year. What happens to students when the schools just stop paying their teachers? What happens to the teachers who are suddenly without paychecks?
These teachers plan to keep working without pay as long as they're able to do so:
“We need the students to know that we’re here and we’re not abandoning them,” [elementary school math teacher Sara] Ferguson said. “We need them to know they’ll have some place to go.”
Educators say the fear of being abandoned is running rampant among students, many of whom have learned about the district’s financial hardships through news reports and community chatter. As students walk past the shuttered businesses and abandoned homes that dot many of the streets of Chester, they are reminded daily that people sometimes leave. The city has lost 12 percent of its population since 1990, and kids worry that teachers and support staff will be next to go.
“That’s why we have to keep showing up,” said middle school math teacher Fran Santoleri. “It gives them stability.”
Not giving these students stability? Massive cuts in education funding by the state.Poverty—"More than 70 percent of its students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches." Crumbling school buildings. And with teachers facing their own economic struggles, it's unclear how long they will be able to keep showing up every day having lost their already below-average paychecks, no matter how dedicated to their students they are. When the state abandons students, there's only so much individuals can do to mitigate the damage.