Teachers at Pa. school start new year without a paycheck

CHESTER, Pa. -- Many schools are opening across the country this week.

In one of Pennsylvania's poorest school districts, hundreds of teachers re-opened their classrooms today not knowing when their next paycheck will come.

A bell ringing ceremony marked the start of the new school year in Chester, Pennsylvania. But its the school districts financial problems that are alarming to parents like Traci Howell.

Students gathering on the first day of school in Pennsylvania.
CBS News

It's the second time in three years she's seen teachers working without knowing when they will get paid.

"This year it seems like it's a lot worse than in previous years," she said.

The Chester Upland School District is currently $22 million in the red.

But this is nothing new. Every year since 2004 its overspent an average $20 million -- mainly due to fiscal mismanagement and a surge in local charter schools.

Half the district's children now attend charters -- and that takes state funding away from the public schools.

Special Education teacher Dariah Jackson doesn't know how long she is prepared to work without a paycheck.

Special Education teacher Dariah Jackson.
CBS News

"I haven't come up with a specific date," she said. "Months."

Superintendent Gregory Shannon, who was hired to reform the district in 2013, says he isn't getting paid either.

Governor Tom Wolfe said that for the last 25 years this district has mismanaged it's finances.

"I would agree. Governor Wolf is correct," said Shannon. "Our district has had a long history of financial challenges."

As politicians scramble to find a solution, a community continues to worry about the future of its children.

"If we don't educate them now, we incarcerate them later. So what do we do?" Howell said.

The teachers won't get paid until the state passes a budget. It's already two months behind. School officials are predicting a more than $20 million deficit for next school year.