There’s a growing school crisis in Puerto Rico, and the media, like the Trump administration, is not paying enough attention.
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello and his education secretary, Julia Keleher, have taken a page right out of the Trump-DeVos playbook. They are using Hurricane Maria and the island’s bankruptcy case as excuses to close down 283 more public schools. This is on top of the 167 schools they already closed late last year. Those slated for closure include schools that excel, and they include career-and-technical-education schools and bilingual schools that may be the only schools of their kind for miles. But Puerto Rico’s education secretary doesn’t care: She admitted yesterday that her department never looked at the schools or analyzed the human impact of the closures.
Puerto Rico’s students aren’t just numbers. Closing their schools and forcing them to travel long distances just to get an education is a terrible plan. And on top of disrupting students’ lives, this plan would divert scarce resources to charter schools, including trying to turn schools—like the island’s public Montessori schools, which want to stay public—over to charters. Shockingly, the secretary has even admitted that she was targeting schools to close in order to turn the buildings over to private charter school operators.
Despite the massive outcry against this plan, the governor and education secretary have pushed forward without regard for the devastating impact these school closures will have on their communities. Closing 35 percent of the island’s schools will be disastrous, and it’s an entirely man-made disaster. These closings do not need to happen. What’s more, the secretary has refused to take input from local mayors, parents, teachers and the community.
They need our support. Help us spread the word about the injustice in Puerto Rico by tweeting at the Governor and Secretary of Education.
First the government ignored the needs of #PuertoRico since the hurricane, now they’re using the crisis to close nearly 300 more schools. Tell @RicardoRossello to stop the school closings. #PorNuestrasEscuelas https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/stand-with-puerto-rico-teachers-and-parents
60,000 students in #PuertoRico will be hurt by these outrageous school closings. Stand with Puerto Rican students by opposing the closings. #PorNuestrasEscuelas https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/stand-with-puerto-rico-teachers-and-parents
The #PuertoRico Education Secretary worked with Betsy DeVos on an education plan and now they’re closing nearly 300 schools. Tell the Gov that this plan cannot happen. #PorNuestrasEscuelas https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/stand-with-puerto-rico-teachers-and-parents
Teachers in West Virginia and Oklahoma have captured the hearts and minds of America. It’s well past time that Puerto Rico commands some attention as well. These are American citizens, and schools in Puerto Rico—just as in states on the mainland—have been starved of resources, which has undermined its entire education system.
Last week, hundreds of parents rallied in front of the Capitol in San Juan, despite an islandwide power failure. And this week, on April 25, thousands of teachers will form a human shield around the Capitol to show their intention to protect public education. They want their voices heard. They want money to be used to invest in and rebuild schools, not to pay off Wall Street hedge funds the governor is trying to court.
We need to show the people of Puerto Rico that there’s national support for their protests—like there has been for other recent teacher protests on the mainland.
The latest round of school closures has been denounced all over the island. Mayors from across Puerto Rico are up in arms, and they’re demanding the governor stop closing schools. They want the governor to consult with them, their communities and the people who are actually affected by this plan.
Gov. Rossello and Secretary Keleher, with the help of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, is pushing forward with no thought for what communities want or need. Public schools have been the center of the post-hurricane recovery over the last six months. The schools have provided shelter, services and care for those in need since Hurricane Maria, while our government let them flounder. And now, instead of investing in communities, the governor and secretary want to shut down their schools.
This education plan is bad. Puerto Rican children and educators need us to be there for them.
Bluefield, West Virginia February 26, 2018