Skip to Content

Union vote averts closing schoolhouse doors due to funding crisis

NEA, PSEA, and Chester Upland Education Association teacher honored on The Ellen Show

WASHINGTON - February 02, 2012 -

The successful organizing of union leaders in Chester Upland, Pa., has drawn national attention to the school funding crisis that forced teachers to decide whether or not they will work without a paycheck. 

Chester Upland’s teachers and staff were told in early January that there wouldn’t be enough money to pay them because the school district was running out of state funding. The district had already made drastic cuts to its educational programs, including layoffs and furloughs of more than a third of its staff. Members of the Chester Upland Education Association and the Chester Upland Education Support Personnel Association agreed to work temporarily without pay, demonstrating their deep commitment to the success of their students.  The school district’s looming crisis was averted on Monday, January 23rd, when state lawmakers secured an agreement with Governor Tom Corbett. 

 “Chester Upland is an extreme example of the devastating consequences budget cuts are having on students across America,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “We cannot allow students to be the victims of misguided priorities.” 

 The Chester Upland Education Association represents the 204 teachers in the district, and the Chester Upland Educational Support Personnel Association represents 65 school support staff workers. Both local unions are affiliates of the Pennsylvania State Education Association and the National Education Association. 

 Sara Ferguson, a 20-year literacy and math teacher in the Chester Upland School District, has helped draw national attention to the school district’s plight and the unwavering commitment of the teachers and support staff to students. A third generation educator in Chester Upland, Ferguson was invited to and attended President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday, January 24th.  She appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres Show earlier today. DeGeneres presented Ferguson with a $100,000 check from JCPenney for her school, Columbus Elementary. 
 “I tell young people you never know where you’ll end up. You can’t even imagine where you might go one day,” said Ferguson on The Ellen Show. “We will not stop fighting for our children. We won’t. Every child deserves the right to attend a great public school.”

“NEA is proud of Sara Ferguson and countless other educators across the country, who are committed to students, even in the face of unprecedented challenges,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “We’re grateful to The Ellen Show and JCPenney for this gift to Columbus Elementary School. But we can’t forget about all of the other children, teachers and schools in Chester Upland and throughout the country who struggle to learn and achieve. We must hold our elected leaders accountable for making sure that all our students and teachers have the resources they need to succeed.”  

For more on Chester Upland visit

Watch Sara Ferguson on The Ellen Show at
Hear Sara talk about President Obama and the State of the Union address:

Follow us on twitter at 
# # #
The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals,  school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to  become teachers.

CONTACT: Celeste Busser  (202) 822-7823,