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The Honorable Thomas W. Corbett Governor of Pennsylvania Governor's Office 225 Main Capitol Building Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17120 Re: Fiscal Crisis at Chester-Upland School District Dear Governor Corbett: We the undersigned are the legislators whose districts, in whole or in part, include Delaware County. We are Republicans and Democrats who are united in asking for your administration's assistance in addressing the crisis in the Chester-Upland School District. As you know, the situation at Chester-Upland is rapidly becoming unsustainable. The district, one of the poorest in the state, is responsible for educating more than 3,600 students (excluding children in charter schools). Currently, it faces a debt of approximately $21 million. As of today, its bank account contains about $300,000. There are about $230,000 in outstanding checks which have been sent but not yet cashed. This would leave approximately $70,000 cash in the hands of the District. Further, the District is holding up $432,000 in checks to venders which are due, but which the District does not have the money to cover. This financial situation, as dire as it is, will only worsen in the short term as money due and owing continues to exceed incoming revenues. Put bluntly, Chester-Upland School District is unable to pay its bills. Among the current obligations the District is unable to meet are teacher's salaries and payments to venders, including fuel to drive the school buses, maintenance for those buses, electricity, school lunches, medical insurance etc. The teachers and administrators of the District have selflessly agreed to work without pay for a short period of time as we attempt to resolve this issue. But this is obviously not a situation that is sustainable for any length of time. This is not the time to assign blame, either to the state boards of control which ran the district from 1994 to 2010, or the current elected school board which has been responsible for the past 18 months. Our focus should be on the children of the district. We agree that the Commonwealth cannot continue to direct additional taxpayer dollars to a broken system. However, without short-term financial help, Chester-Upland faces the strong, imminent likelihood that it will have to close its doors and stop educating children. It is important to recognize what that means specifically. There is no other school district, collection of school districts, or charter school nearby that could come remotely close to accommodating 3,600 students. Thus, if Chester-Upland closes its doors, there will be thousands of Pennsylvania children who literally have nowhere to go to school.
We are aware that PDE has taken the position that Chester-Upland is not a distressed school district under 24 PS section 6-691. However, we do not agree with that conclusion and believe that the Secretary should declare the district to be distressed. It is through this mechanism that the Secretary and a Board of Control can fashion intermediate and long-term financial plans for the district. Obviously this is a humanitarian and public perception problem that will quickly gain national attention. We have literally never faced such a situation before. While there may be some room to debate how we arrived at this moment, it seems to us that there can be no debate regarding the need to address this situation immediately and decisively. We, the Delaware County legislative delegation, are therefore asking for an emergency meeting on Tuesday, January 17th with you, Secretary of Education Tomalis, and Budget Secretary Zogby, as well as any other person you believe could be helpful. We will make ourselves available at any time which is convenient to you. We look forward to hearing from you and working with your administration to solve this pressing problem.
Very Truly Yours,
Senator Dominic Pileggi Senator Daylin Leach Senator Ted Erickson Representative Stephen Barrar Representative Joseph Hackett Representative Maria Donatucci Representative Thomas Killion Representative Greg Vitali Representative William Adolph, Jr. cc: Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis Chester-Upland School District