Chester High School
January 20, 2012

Philly School Struggles

For this school, making it until graduation wasn't a given.

Darius: I want to be able to sit in class and have enough textbooks to go over stuff.

Jessica: Darius is not asking for much. But his school in Chester, Pennsylvania, on the outskirts of Philadelphia, has almost no money left. The school district needs $20 million just to stay open for the rest of the school year. And students are not keeping quiet.

Kashay: How can y’all say you’re trying. You’re not trying hard enough.

Jessica: Kashay had her say at this school board meeting where Chester High School’s survival was topic number one.

The state of Pennsylvania ran the district for 16 years. And when the state gave control back to the district, school board members say the state left them with a deficit, or a debt, which is why they are in financial trouble now.

“They said we cannot help you at this time. We don’t have the money or we don’t choose to fund you.”

Jessica: To help balance its budget, Pennsylvania cut funding for local schools. In Chester, that meant the school district would get $12 million less, a reduction of 13%. Sometimes districts can fill that gap in the budget with taxes that come from the community. But low income districts like Chester don’t have that option.

“It puts poorer school districts in a tremendous disadvantage. We’re the first domino to fall.”

Jessica: Since 2008, thirty states cut more than 25 billion from local school budgets. Four slashed school funding by more than 20%. And 278,000 education jobs have been lost nationwide.

The situation in Chester is so bad, educators are paying for supplies out of their own pockets.

“Teachers try their best, most of them. They pay for paper out of their own money.”

Jessica: Pennsylvania just agreed to give Chester $3.2 million in emergency funding. It is enough to make payroll for one month. But then what? The district and the state are weighing the costs of saving Chester’s schools.

Back to you, Scott.


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