Poor Pennsylvania School District Struggles Against Closure

The struggling Chester Upland School District may be about to completely run out of cash, after nearly two decades of being financially distressed.

Hoping to avoid a shutdown, the school filed a lawsuit that declared a “cash-flow crisis” whereby they won’t be able to make payroll unless the state advances the district $18.7 million in expected funding, writes Patrick Walters at the Associated Press.

Administrators in the Chester Upland School District, one of Pennsylvania’s poorest systems, have asked a judge to tell state Education Secretary Ronald Tomalis that he must act to provide students in the district with a “thorough and efficient educational system.”

“We’re doing everything we can to keep the district running,” said Thom Persing, acting deputy superintendent.

Persing said the school is trying to set up contingency plans in case the state funding doesn’t arrive, with officials prioritizing the preservation of programs for special education students and seniors.

However, Tim Eller, an Education Department spokesman, said advancing money is not fixing the problem.

“The mismanagement of money is the utmost concern,” he said.

The school board says they inherited their budget problems after years of state control. The state says the board brought back several dozen staff members in 2011 without any plan in place to cover the $6 million cost.

The state also notes that the school budget did not account for $27 million of payroll, insurance, unemployment compensation and other costs, writes Walters.

Breon Patterson, 17, a junior, said his mother has talked to him about moving if the system shuts down. Anxious parents across the district are looking at all sorts of measures to ensure their children stay in school.

“They’re playing us like we’re a joke,” said Darius Fassett, 16, a junior at Science and Discovery High School.

“If it were a different district, with higher test scores, they wouldn’t be playing with us.”

Danyel Jennings, a nurse who campaigned for state funding and raised hundreds of signatures for an online petition, said she would have to resort to home-schooling her 16-year-old son if the school shuts down.