By Ian Bush and Pat Ciarrocchi
CHESTER, Pa. (CBS) — When President Obama presents his State of the Union tonight, a third generation educator from the financially-strapped Chester Upland School District will be sitting in the First Lady’s viewing box, above the House floor.
Sara Ferguson is a 20 year veteran of Chester Upland, teaching literacy and math at Columbus Elementary in Parkside. She’s been working under the threat of no pay check, because of the district’s budget deficit and loss of state funding (see related stories).
“I was a public school student who was taken to the White House by a teacher,” says Ferguson. “So, for me to come back and represent teachers is a joy.”
And why did the White House pick her for the honor?
“I’m not sure exactly why it was me, but I am grateful and I’m humbled to be able to go and represent my students and my school district,” she tells KYW Newsradio.
The invitation to watch the State of the Union from the First Lady’s viewing box came through the National Education Association. During the quest for state funds, the NEA found Ferguson outspoken when she said Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett’s unprecedented 14.4 percent cut in state support for Chester Upland never should have reached this crisis point.
And if Ferguson has the opportunity tonight, she intends to tell Mrs. Obama what public education needs, beginning with legislation to provide resources for poorer districts. Arts programs, state of the art books and technology are also on her list.
Mostly, she hopes the president will make students a priority in his agenda.
“Our public schools need to have adequate funding,” she says. “Our students are deserving, regardless of where they’re from, regardless of their race, their situation, their zip code. A quality education is their right, and I just want them to know that the students deserve this, and it takes resources to run public schools.”