WEST CHESTER (January 6) – Senator Dinnimian issued the following statement on financial crisis in the Chester Upland School District:
“As minority chair of the Senate Education Committee, I am dismayed by the actions of the Pennsylvania Department of Education in refusing to advance available funding for the Chester Upland School District. What is occurring in the Chester Upland School District is only the beginning of the Corbett Adminstration’s plan to financially starve poor school districts, destroy public education in these districts and in this case, force students into for-profit charter schools.
“What is happening in the Chester Upland school district is the first step in what might well be how a number of other school districts on the brink of financial disaster – including Reading, Harrisburg, Sto-Rox, and Steelton-Highspire – are also going to be treated.
“It was a result of actions by the Corbett Administration that set up this doomsday scenario. The Corbett budget cut education funding for the poorest and most needy school districts. Chester Upland was cut by millions of dollars. Corbett officials knew the school district could not survive on the money available and knew an advance of the funds would be necessary. Yet, when school district officials made their advance request, Corbett officials refused.
“The real heroes of this debacle are the teachers, who are teaching in classes of more than 40 students and have said they will continue teaching despite not getting paid. How many people would work without getting paid?
“The absolute hypocrisy of what’s happening is stunning: While PDE is refusing to send funds to the Chester Upland School District, they have taken money during this school year from the district’s account and sent it to charter school operators.
“As a legislator, I have a fundamental responsibility to ask a question that needs to be asked and has yet to be answered: ‘Is it just a coincidence that the operator of the for-profit charter school serving the students of this district is also one of the biggest Republican contributors in the Commonwealth?’”
“Additionally, what is so perplexing is that the secretary of education all along had both the authority and responsibility since last January to declare the Chester Upland School District under Section 691 of the School code a financially distressed district and to take appropriate action to cope with their financial distress. Sadly, Secretary Tomalis did not take this action.
“Both I and the Majority Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, Sen. Jeff Piccola, have asked Education Department officials since August to send us a list of the school districts on the verge of what amounts to bankruptcy along with a plan to deal with this dire situation. To this very day, they have refused to do so.
“I am for school reform, but not reform designed to purposely destroy public education. Even with all the alternative school options, the vast majority of students in poorer schools will continue to attend these schools.”
“The callous action to not advance the basic funds to allow the education of students in Chester Upland is not school reform; it is a purposeful and harmful attempt to destroy public education.
“No matter what side of the education you are on, all of us need to stand up to make sure that the basic funding continues to be available for the students in this district. We must stand as one to assure that the politics of education in Pennsylvania is not done on the backs of these students and these teachers.”