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Pa. Teachers Agree to Work for Free

Teachers in Pennsylvania's Chester Upland School District have agreed to continue working even though the district can no longer afford to pay them, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Chester Upland has been in turmoil for some time. Last summer, the state passed massive budget cuts that forced the district to decrease its operating budget by $18 million, according to the Delaware County Daily Times. The district laid off 40 percent of its professional staff and half of its unionized support staff, states the Inquirer, and in some schools, class sizes now average more than 40 students. The acting superintendent, Levi Wingard, was laid off as well on Dec. 31. In a letter posted on the district's website, Wingard writes:

We now face a very challenging financial crisis. We are currently unable to fund the district's payroll expenses after January 4, 2012. However, I assure you that the members of the school board and the district administration are doing everything possible to identify a solution. We are working cooperatively with the labor unions, the Delaware County Superintendents, the Delaware County Intermediate Unit and the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

The unions have appealed to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett for financial aid, reports the Inquirer. However, state Education Secretary Ron Tomalis refused a similar request from Chester Upland's school board last month, saying the board had mismanaged its finances.

District employees passed a resolution last week at a union meeting saying they would continue to work "as long as we are individually able." Sara Ferguson, an elementary teacher who has taught in Chester Upland for 21 years, told the Inquirer, "It's alarming. It's disturbing. But we are adults; we will make a way. The students don't have any contingency plan. They need to be educated, so we intend to be on the job."

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