Union Educators’ Heroism Spotlighted on The Ellen Show
By Kevin Hart
The heroism of union educators in Pennsylvania’s Chester Upland School District was beamed into millions of homes yesterday, as Columbus Elementary School teacher Sara Ferguson appeared on the nationally broadcast The Ellen Show to discuss the district’s plight.
“Every child deserves the right to attend a great public school, and they need to have a good teacher in front of them,” Ferguson told host Ellen DeGeneres, whose show is watched by nearly 3 million people a day.
Chester Upland, located outside of Philadelphia, was brought to the brink of financial disaster earlier this year, when draconian state budget cuts left it unable to make payroll for its teachers, support professionals and administrators. The announcement generated widespread fear that district schools, which serve predominantly low-income students, would be closed.
“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.”
At an early January meeting, members of the Chester Upland Education Association and the Chester Upland Education Support Personnel Association, affiliates of the Pennsylvania State Education Association and the National Education Association, passed a resolution promising to stay on the job – even without pay – as long as they were individually able. The teachers and support professionals vowed to band together to keep the schools running for as long as they could.
While an advance on state funding has since given the district a temporary lifeline, educators like Ferguson continue to wage an uphill battle to ensure Chester Upland’s students have the resources they need. JCPenney has stepped up to help, presenting Ferguson with a check for $100,000 for the district during her appearance on The Ellen Show.
Van Roekel expressed his gratitude toward The Ellen Show and JCPenney for the gift – and said now was the time for more elected officials to do what’s right for students and ensure all schools are adequately funded.
“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,” he said. “We must hold our elected leaders accountable for making sure that all our students and teachers have the resources they need to succeed.”
Ferguson, who was also a guest of First Lady Michelle Obama during January’s State of the Union address, said she and her fellow educators would continue to fight for justice for Chester Upland students. DeGeneres also had a special message for the district’s 4,000 students.
“We believe in you, kids,” she said. “Don’t ever give up.”