National education and labor news

Puerto Rico faces school privatization after Maria

Gov. Ricardo Rossello

Gov. Ricardo Rossello

Puerto Rico’s governor announced on Feb. 5 that he will pursue school privatization policies as the island continues to suffer from the devastation of Hurricane Maria.

The September 2017 hurricane forced all of the island’s approximately 1,100 public schools to close — many permanently — and about 270 schools still lack electricity. The hurricane’s impact came on top of years of fiscal troubles and declining enrollment. Some 27,000 of the 350,000 students attending public school in Puerto Rico before the storm are now attending schools on the U.S. mainland.

Gov. Ricardo Rossello proposes to create charter schools and vouchers as alternatives to traditional public schools. The governor’s announcement comes only weeks after he submitted a fiscal plan that would close 300 schools.

AFT President Randi Weingarten condemned the governor’s proposal. “To say that schools that have already been starved should be further starved so he can privatize options is an abandonment of public education,” she said. “He’s proposing to create more austerity.”

Rossello has also recommended giving all public school teachers their first raise in a decade. Jaime Morales, a public school teacher on the island for the past 18 years, said the $1,500 annual salary increase proposed by the governor is not enough.

“We can’t make ends meet with the cost of living,” he said, adding that teachers are often forced to buy their own supplies. “Books are scarce.”

Associated Press, Feb. 6

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