Chester schools in media spotlight: 2011-2012

The Chester school district was suddenly placed in the national media spotlight in late 2011 and early 2012 when it ran out of money. Although the Chester Upland School District has been financially and academically struggling since 1994 — and arguably before — it has not garnered significant attention in the press until now.

The Economist, January 21, 2012
This article is short, simple, and factual. It is extremely informative for readers who may not know anything about the Chester Upland School District, but is still very basic and simplified. Nevertheless, it is a useful source for spreading accurate and important information about Chester schools. This article is significant because The Economist is a global publication., January 24, 2012
Sara Ferguson, a teacher at Columbus Elementary in Chester, was invited to sit in Michelle Obama’s box at the January 24, 2012 State of the Union. Quote about Sara Ferguson from the White House press release:

Sara Ferguson teaches literacy and math at Columbus Elementary, and has worked for the Chester Upland School District for 20 years.  She is a third generation educator in Chester Upland, and a proud product of that district.  When the Chester Upland School District faced bankruptcy earlier this year in light of severe state budget cuts, Ms. Ferguson vowed to continue teaching even without being paid, saying “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.”

This was arguably the greatest publicity for the Chester schools. Although focused more on the heroic Ferguson than the problems with the Chester school system as a whole, this brought attention to the problems in education in the U.S. More importantly, though, Chester was portrayed as representative of struggling school districts nationwide, which garnered it much attention.

Sara Ferguson on Ellen Degeneres, February 2, 2012
One of the ways in which Sara Ferguson’s appearance at the State of the Union was influential was that Ferguson was then invited to appear on The Ellen Degeneres Show on February 2, 2012. Although attracting yet more widespread national attention for the Chester Upland School District, it is somewhat unhelpful to publicize the problems on Ellen. Ellen presented $100,000 on an oversized check to go to Columbus Elementary, but the school district needs far more change, reform, and money than a one-time $100,000 from Ellen to go to one single school.

The New York Times, February 4, 2012
This article, unlike many of the others, focuses on Chester Community Charter School, portraying it in a largely negative light because it drains money away from the public schools. This article is much more comprehensive than the Economist article, and thus more useful. The New York Times, while widely read in the United States, is not a global publication like The Economist.

NPR, February 6, 2012
Similar to The Economist article, this NPR radio report was fairly simple and gave only the basic facts, but nevertheless garnered more national attention to the plight of Charter schools.

The recent publicity given to the budget problems of the Chester Upland School District vary in level of detail and portrayal of the situation. However, the more press there is, the more likely that something will be done to solve the issues. It is sad that only such a dire crisis could bring national and international attention to Chester’s problems, but at the very least the attention given to the education problems may lead to more focus in the national and international media to issues of educational equality everywhere.