Archives for category: Puerto Rico

Randi Weingarten, who is both president of the American Federation of Teachers and a veteran lawyer, describes the AFT’s efforts to save the pensions and benefits and dignity of teachers in Puerto Rico as the Island faced bankruptcy and predatory lenders.

 

The New York Times Magazine published a heart-breaking photo essay about the abandonment of schools in Puerto Rico, first because of its debt crisis, then because of federal privatization policy after hurricanes in 2017.

The Island has been strangled by financiers, then raped by DeVos-style policies, and the public schools were the victims.

The writer was Jonathan M. Katz.

It begins:

During the blazing summer of 2019, Puerto Rico was in tumult. Thousands of the islands’ residents marched shoulder to shoulderthrough cities. They sang, danced and demanded the ouster of the commonwealth’s negligent governor, Ricardo Rosselló — and, with him, the federal control board that holds economic power over the United States’ oldest remaining colony in the Americas.

The crowd’s ire was fueled in part by a sense of absence. Away from the echoing drums, down forgotten streets and across green mountains, the islands are emptying. Decades of abuse, austerity, corruption and now the ravages of climate change have triggered an exodus of people and money. As the summer wet season gives way to the wary hurricane watch of an ever-warmer fall, no evidence of this decline is more powerful than the islands’ hundreds of abandoned schools.

The photographer Diana Zeyneb Alhindawi and I spent weeks touring these monuments to neglect. Books and blackboards rotted in the humidity. Stray dogs made their beds beneath teachers’ desks. Some of the buildings had been left to addicts and thieves. In others, neighbors had refashioned empty classrooms into stables for horses, rabbits and pigs. Even in schools that remain in use, mold creeps, roofs are torn and gymnasiums sag like wet shoe boxes. Landslide-prone slopes loom, unrestrained, behind buildings filled with students….

Carlos Conde Marín School

Location: Carolina

Carlos Conde Marín was closed at the end of the 2016-17 school year despite protests from the community. As with many schools closed during the tenure of the former education secretary of Puerto Rico, Julia Keleher, the shuttering was sudden and swift. School materials were left to the elements, stray animals or anyone passing by. The school is seen here in May 2019, after the building was vandalized and also heavily damaged in Hurricane Maria. Gym buildings (directly above) were hit particularly hard because of their lightweight walls and roofs.

The hurricanes weren’t the beginning of the story, though. The disasters compounded a social and economic calamity that has been brewing for over a century. It arguably began in 1898, when United States forces invaded Puerto Rico, then a colony of Spain, during the Spanish-American War. Before the war, Spain had grudgingly granted Puerto Rico limited home rule, an attempt to forestall an independence movement. But with the advent of American rule, Puerto Rico fell deeper into colonial status. The islands’ people could not elect their own governor until 1947. They still cannot vote for president and have no voting representation in Congress.

Puerto Rico’s economy grew for decades, thanks to a series of tax breaks for companies from the mainland. Washington allowed the territorial government to borrow money by issuing tax-exempt municipal bonds and repay them with the rising revenues. When the last of those tax breaks ended in 2006, the economy stalled, leaving its government overleveraged and with few options. The commonwealth’s leaders began issuing riskier bonds that may have circumvented constitutional protections. Major lenders including UBS, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Santander have since been sued multiple times — some have settled — for underwriting them. In 2015, with $120 billion in bond obligations and unfunded pensions, the governor was forced to declare that Puerto Rico would stop making many debt payments.

Under an agreement signed by President Obama, Puerto Rico gained protection from lawsuits. In exchange, its economy fell under the control of a seven-member Financial Oversight and Management Board with offices in New York and San Juan. Instead of forgiving Puerto Rico’s debt, the board implemented a strict austerity regime, which has grown steadily more draconian.

Ramón Valle Seda Elementary School

Location: Mayagüez

After Ramón Valle Seda Elementary School, near downtown Mayagüez, was closed in 2016, neighbors began using it as a stable and an animal sanctuary. Police and education-department officials have tried repeatedly to kick out the animals. But the parents and children using the building want official permission, saying that will keep it from turning into a drug haven like the closed school across the street. This horse was taking a break from the sun in May 2019. Its name means ‘‘hurricane’’ in Spanish.

Theodore Roosevelt School

Location: Mayagüez

The Theodore Roosevelt School opened in 1900, two years after Puerto Rico was occupied by the United States, as the first U.S.-style high school in the western city Mayagüez. The school was renamed on the occasion of a visit by Roosevelt, who played a leading role in annexing the islands during the 1898 war with Spain. It later became an elementary school. It was ordered closed in 2018 and converted into a depot for books and equipment from other shuttered schools in the area.

Don Ignacio Dicupe González Elementary School

Location: Lares

Nature is reclaiming the classrooms at Ignacio Dicupe González Elementary School in Lares, in the mountains of western Puerto Rico, seen here in April 2019. Lares is known as the cradle of Puerto Rican independence for its role in an 1868 uprising against Spain and still proudly flies the revolutionary flag. But it has lost nearly a quarter of its population in the last decade, one of the highest percentages of any municipality. The school, which closed right before the hurricanes, sits in an almost monastic silence; the only sounds the songs of birds in a red flamboyant tree in the courtyard and the occasional blast of reggaeton from a passing car.

As conditions worsened, the trickle of people leaving for the mainland turned into a flood. Between 2009 and 2017, the population declined 12 percent, from 3.9 million to 3.4 million, according to the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College. The “Great Depression of Puerto Rico” had begun, José Caraballo-Cueto, an economist and associate professor at the University of Puerto Rico-Cayey, told me. “We have to acknowledge that the stock of human capital is decreasing,” he said.

The appointment of Julia Keleher as the Island’s Secretary of Education was a disaster. She fully agreed with the Trump administration’s determination to implement privatization with charters and vouchers. She was Betsy DeVos Without the billions.

Soon after taking office in 2017, Rosselló brought Julia Keleher, the founder of a small Washington education consultancy, to take over the fragile school system. Keleher, who is from the Philadelphia area, had a reputation as an expert at winning government grants. Indeed, her firm had recently obtained a $231,000 contract with the department she was about to head.

Keleher quickly embarked on a two-pronged mission to overhaul the school system. She pushed for the creation of semi-privatized charter schools and private-school vouchers. At the same time, she shut down hundreds of still-functioning public schools. Defending her actions, she later said: “Somebody had to be the responsible adult in the room.” Keleher, who is white, also likened the fury she received from Puerto Rican parents and the islands’ well-organized teachers’ union to the experience of being a racial minority…

At the end of the 2016-17 school year, Keleher ordered 183 schools shuttered, according to the Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico, the territory’s teachers’ union and Keleher’s most implacable foe…An estimated 160,000 more Puerto Ricans — another 5 percent of the population — have left since the storm. Keleher took the opportunity to further shrink the school system: Of the roughly 1,100 public schools left in Puerto Rico at the time of the storms, more than 250 simply didn’t open again. Most of those abandoned were elementary or middle schools. Some children who remained have since been forced to travel longer distances to attend classes, sometimes on dangerous mountain roads…

The territorial education department was promised $589 million in federal aid to reopen damaged schools, but as of March had received only 4 percent of the money; the rest expires at the end of April 2020. A United States Department of Education inspector general found that Keleher’s department lacked effective controls to prevent “fraud, waste and abuse.” Backlash from parents and the teachers’ union finally forced Keleher to resign in April. Three months later, she was arrested by the F.B.I. in Washington and charged with conspiring to steer contracts to associates at another consulting firm. She pleaded not guilty; the case is proceeding.

During her time in office, Keleher was paid $250,000 a year, while most Puerto Rican’s were living in dire conditions. She will stand trial for steering contracts to favored firms.

The tragedy documented in the Times’ photo essay is the abandonment and destruction of the Island’s schools at the same time that the chief education official was intent on privatizing the schools in service to austerity.

The parents and teachers cared about the children. The U.S. government and the now-deposed government of Puerto Rico did not.

 

Democracy raised its voices in the streets of Puerto Rico, demanding the resignation of the governor of Puerto Rico. He said no. They said yes. He is resigning today, according to this report from CNN:

 

Puerto Rico’s embattled governor Ricardo Rosselló is expected to resign today after more than a week of protests that have rocked the capital city of San Juan. The dominos began to fall yesterday when Rosselló’s chief of staff handed in his resignation, citing the welfare of his family amid the ongoing unrest. The protests erupted after the publication of offensive group chat messages about Hurricane Maria victims exchanged between the governor and members of his inner circle. However, for demonstrators, the messages were just the last in a long line of offenses. They have also cited government corruption, high poverty rates, crushing debt and a painfully slow recovery after Hurricane Maria crippled the island in 2017. Should Rosselló resign, Puerto Rico Secretary of Justice Wanda Vazquez is expected to take his place. 

The people of Puerto Rico are in the streets demanding the resignation of Governor Rosselló, following the release of emails revealing his bigotry and contemptuous comments about those who elected him. Former Secretary of a Education Julia Keleher was brought to the Island to privatize public schools, adopting the Trump-DeVos plan of charters and vouchers. She was recently arrested on fraud charges.

Weingarten: Puerto Rico Gov. Rossello’s Tenure of Corruption and Failure Centers on His Mismanagement of Public Schools

Governor and Former Puerto Rico Education Secretary Keleher Created a Perfect Storm of Indifference and Incompetence 

For Release:

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Contact:

Michael Powell

WASHINGTON—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten issued the following statement on the mismanagement of Puerto Rico’s public schools by Gov. Ricardo Rossello and former Secretary of Education Julia Keleher:

“Nearly 1 million people took to the streets yesterday to call for Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello to resign. His tenure of corruption and failure includes his mismanagement of the public schools.

“The governor and Puerto Rico’s former secretary of education, Julia Keleher, caused significant and lasting damage to children and prevented their access to a high-quality education. Rossello and Keleher’s arrogance and neglect created a perfect storm of indifference and incompetence.

“For two years, Rossello and Keleher ignored repeated requests from the Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico and the AFT to use federal recovery money to fund and restore public education on the island. By ignoring our requests, they clearly showed their collective antipathy toward public education and how little they cared about the children and teachers in Puerto Rico’s public schools.

“Instead, they chose to grossly underfund public schools, leaving children with outdated textbooks, no school nurses and school buildings in disrepair. They shortsightedly closed more than 430 schools, one-third of the island’s public schools, and left families struggling to find alternative schools for their children to attend, often many miles away. They diverted much-needed funding from public schools to start charter schools, despite the growing evidence showing that many charters underperform compared with traditional public schools.

“To add insult to injury, we now find out from a recent U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General audit that Rossello and Keleher, to date, have spent $24.1 million—only 4 percent—of the $589 million in disaster relief funds provided by Congress to help fund and repair schools.

“Both knew full well that Congress stipulated in the recovery funding legislation that the money had to be spent in 24 months. Tragically—with the governor mired in a corruption scandal and Keleher being forced to resign after her arrest by the FBI for engaging in a kickback scheme—this federal recovery money will be largely unspent or spent unwisely.

“The governor and former secretary’s lack of commitment to the children of Puerto Rico is appalling. And their disrespect to the teachers on the island who threw their heart and soul into trying to teach and comfort these kids in the months after the storms is unforgivable. The sad chapter of Rossello and Keleher will forever be a stain on Puerto Rico.

“The next governor must not just repair the damage done to the public schools by the hurricanes, but must eliminate the utter contempt that Rossello and Keleher brought to their handling of public education.”

 

 

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Writer Christopher Rim asks a reasonable question in this article in Forbes: Did Betsy DeVos’ passion for school choice enable the corruption in administration of federal education funds in Puerto Rico? I was particularly pleased to read this article because Rim is a brilliant young man who does not usually write about education.

He begins:

Yesterday, the former education secretary of Puerto Rico, Julia Keleher, returned to the island to stand trial after being arrested by the FBI on July 10th on fraud charges. Specifically, she and a government official in the insurance sector have been charged with using their government positions and connections to misdirect federal funding and award bloated, fraudulent contracts to their personal connections (several of whom were also arrested on the 10th). Some see this as vindication for the Trump administration, which has cited potential misuse of funds as one of their reasons for repeatedly trying to hold back much-needed funds, most recently funding for food stamps. However, this alleged fraud actually has more to do with policies of reducing public school funding in favor of private and charter schools, a shift made popular by Education Secretary Betsy Devos. 

This scandal comes as a shock to many, but those who have been paying close attention to Keleher’s salary and budgeting, as well as the state of education in Puerto Rico during her two-year tenure, saw her arrest as a vindication of what they have been protesting throughout her time in office. Keleher assumed the responsibilities of Puerto Rico’s education secretary in early 2017. There was immediate controversy over her salary— at $250,000 annually, she was already Puerto Rico’s highest-paid public official, earning ten times more than the average Puerto Rican teacher, three times more than Puerto Rico governor Ricardo Roselló, and 25% more than Secretary DeVos. She maintained this salary even after Hurricane Maria—in fact, she attempted to use a foundation’s donation to the Puerto Rican education system to raise it to $400,000, the same salary as the US President. In the wake of Hurricane Maria, she had to spearhead the education-related relief efforts. Keleher used this tragedy as an opportunity to try her own plans to redesign Puerto Rico’s school system. She led wide-scale education reform efforts and referred to the island’s education system as a ‘laboratory’ to test the Devos model, as she pushed to adopt private school vouchers and charter schools while closing hundreds of public schools. While schools were struggling to recover from the hurricane, Kelleher worked to permanently close over 20% of them—263 public schools were shut down during her time as education secretary. Because of these closures, 5,000 teachers lost their jobs and 75,000 students were displaced. 

All of this led to protests on local, national and international scales. In March 2018, thousands of educators marched to the capitol in protest of the voucher and charter school program. On twitter, critics started the hashtag “#JuliaGoHome” in order to publicly decry her unjust policies. In April of 2019, after she had resigned, Keleher attended an education conference at Yale to speak about leadership. At the conference, a student circulated a letter about the shortcomings and negative repercussions of Keleher’s so-called “reform” efforts. After her arrest, both of the island’s teachers’ unions issued statements that theyfelt vindicated in their longstanding disagreements with and protests against Keleher and her policies. One of these unions, the Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico (AMPR) had filed a lawsuit in April of last year to protest Keleher’s reforms, arguing that “the new law and separate fiscal reforms will cost teachers jobs, hurt students, and dismember the island’s public education system.” By that point, 179 schools had already been closed, and 263 would soon face the same fate. 

 

 

Andrew Ujifusa writes in Education Week about a massive number of leaked emails from government officials in Puerto Rico that have caused an uproar on the Island. The emails touch on many issues, and education is one of them. In the wake of the data dump, many people are calling no the governor of Puerto Rico to resign.

 

Puerto Rico’s political leadership is unraveling at high speed, pushed along by an ex-education secretary’s arrest last week and the leak of private messages between Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and his top officials that include derogatory comments about the teachers’ union president. 

Julia Keleher, who was appointed by Rosselló as secretary in late 2016 and served as the island’s schools chief until April, was arrested last Wednesday on fraud charges related to how she handled millions of dollars in government contracts. Her arrest reignited ongoing debates about her and the governor’s successful push to expand educational choice, close hundreds of schools, and reform the island’s education bureaucracy, as well as her status as a non-Puerto Rican. 

Then on Saturday, the Center for Investigative Journalism in Puerto Rico published hundreds of pages of private messages—mostly in Spanish—between Rosselló and some of his top advisers. The leaked messages have caused a political firestorm on the island, leading to several resignations and growing calls for the governor to step down. 

Among the messages’ targets was the Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico, the island’s teachers’ union, and its president, Aida Díaz. In a Dec. 19, 2018 exchange, the then-chief financial officer of Puerto Rico, Christian Sobrino, responded to a statement from AMPR about union negotiations by saying in English, “I DONT [sic] NEGOTIATE WITH TERRORISTS!” 

If that epithet sounds familiar, you might be thinking of former U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige, who once called the National Education Association a “terrorist organization.”

Four days earlier, in response to other comments from Díaz in support of San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, Sobrino said he was “salivating” at the idea of shooting a person or people. However, it’s not entirely clear from Sobrino’s remark about shooting if he meant Cruz, Díaz, or both of them, or someone else. In the messages, Rosselló responded that this would be helpful to him. (Sobrino announced his resignation on Sunday after these and other messages were made public.) 

The governor also referred to former Louisiana State Superintendent Paul Pastorek, a staunch proponent of charters and vouchers, as a “monster,” upon learning that he was charging the bankrupt island $250 an hour to be a “consultant.”

On a related matter, a story from the Associated Press says: 

Federal officials said Wednesday morning that former Education Secretary Julia Keleher; former Puerto Rico Health Insurance Administration head Ángela Ávila-Marrero; businessmen Fernando Scherrer-Caillet and Alberto Velázquez-Piñol, and education contractors Glenda E. Ponce-Mendoza and Mayra Ponce-Mendoza, who are sisters, were arrested by the FBI on 32 counts of fraud and related charges.

The alleged fraud involves $15.5 million in federal funding between 2017 and 2019. Thirteen million was spent by the Department of Education during Keleher’s time as secretary while $2.5 million was spent by the insurance administration when Ávila was the director.

 

In a major corruption investigation, the FBI arrested former Puerto Rico Secretary of Education Julia Keleher in DC. 

Keleher was brought to the Island to cut costs, impose charters and vouchers, and break the union. She was paid $250,000 a year while preaching austerity and budget cuts.

Puerto Rican educators did not like her, to put it mildly. They referred to her with the hashtag #JuliaGoHome.

Puerto Rican journalist #RimaBrusi tweeted that the new hashtag is #JuliaGoToJail

The charges include wire fraud, money laundering, and theft.

 

The Public Accountability Initiative is the place to go to follow the money. The team that produces these reports is called “Little Sis,” the opposite of Big Brother. Little Sis recently posted an eye-opening analysis of the funders of Teach for America.

This post identifies the Hedge funders who hold large amounts of Puerto Rico’s debt and are demanding a reduction in pensions and public services (especially public schools). It also details how people can fight back.

Time is running out for retirees in Puerto Rico in the struggle to preserve their pensions: the Financial Oversight and Management Board has proposed cuts that would take effect July 1, 2019.1 If those cuts go through, around 167,000 families will be affected immediately in this new attack against Puerto Ricans’ living conditions.2 Vulture funds, on the other hand, stand to rake in millions in profits at the expense of the suffering of thousands.

Rather than helping retirees take care of their families, the pension cuts will instead channel the money to hedge fund billionaires to pay for their extravagant lifestyles.

But retirees can still fight back by mobilizing against the upcoming debt deal, pressing the legislature to vote against the bill allowing the restructuring, voting against the debt adjustment plan, and pressuring judge Laura Taylor Swain to not approve the plan.

 

Samuel Abrams, director of the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education, writes here about the likely effects of the influx of charter schools in Puerto Rico.

This is the abstract.

With the passage of the Education Reform Act in March 2018, Puerto Rico joined states across the mainland in authorizing charter schools as privately managed government-funded alternatives to conventional public schools. In this article, Samuel E. Abrams describes the origins of charter schools, their formal introduction with legislation in Minnesota in 1991 and evolution since, and their probable impact in Puerto Rico. While conceding that charter schools may diversify the educational landscape and serve many students well, Abrams cautions that charter schools can generate untoward division, as they tend to enroll fewer children with academic and behavioral challenges and more children of engaged parents. The exit of such parents from conventional public schools, he writes, compounds this division, as they take with them their voice to advocate for better schooling for all children. Abrams contends this problem of exit stands to have an especially strong effect in Puerto Rico given that 25% of K-12 students on the island already attend private schools compared to 10% across the mainland.

Citation: Samuel E. Abrams, Exit, Voice, and Charter Schools, 88 Rev. Jur. UPR 894 (2019).

Here is the full article. 

 

Julia Keleher will one day have engraved on her tombstone: “She Destroyed the Public Schools in Puerto Rico.” She joins the blog’s Wall of Shame for her shameless assault on public schools, the teachers’  union, and the students of Puerto Rico.

Keleher resigned her position as Puerto Rico’s Secretary of State earlier this week. Her resignation comes after two years of top down education reform. She was hated by the Island’s teachers. She’s closed more than 350 schools in Puerto Rico, worked hand in hand with Betsy DeVos to undercut public schools by bringing vouchers and charters to the island, undermined special education services for students and threatened to turn over 30 schools to fly-by-night companies with no experience who want to cash in on schools.
She is the Betsy DeVos of Puerto Rico, although she was neither born nor raised there. She was born in Philadelphia, where she attended Catholic school. She received her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware and the for-profit Strayer University. There is no indication on her Wikipedia bio that she ever taught, though she has done consulting, data-driven management, web-based stuff, project management, and worked for the for-profit Sylvan tutoring services. She is a Republican. She was imported to Puerto Rico to disrupt the public schools on behalf of Wall Street and the power elite.
After she resigned, she was initially given a $250,000 a year job in the treasury department but she was forced to resign that backup position after newspapers in Puerto Rico questioned her ethics.
The Yale Education Leadership conference still invited her to keynote its ed reform conference yesterday that’s supported by the Walton Foundation, Broad, 50CAN (funded by Jonathan Sackler of the opioid industry) and other right-wing organizations. Puerto Rican students from Yale wrote an open letter to Yale and to Julia Keleher which they distributed before she spoke. Imagine that: A conference on education funded only by right-wing foundations! Now there is a balanced discussion!
The letter is below.

To the Yale School of Management Education Leadership Conference:

I am disappointed, yet not surprised, that this year’s Education Leadership Conference has chosen to host Julia Keleher as one of their keynote speakers for leaders in education reform. Keleher’s “reform” of the Puerto Rican public education system does not serve to solve any of its problems but rather to mutilate it in order to benefit all but those Puerto Rican citizens who actually rely on high quality public schools. This celebration of Keleher’s work only displays the way in which members of elite institutions like the Yale School of Management can be so blind to the reality and context of life in Puerto Rico.

 

To Former Secretary of the Puerto Rico Department of Education Julia Keleher:

 

During your time as the Secretary of the Puerto Rico Department of Education, you promoted the closing of over 400 public schools. You boasted that schools were mostly back to normal just weeks after Hurricane Maria, despite the fact that many schools still did not have power well into January of 2018.

 

Rather than overseeing plans that would put the public school system onto a path of genuine recovery and growth, you pushed the creation of charter schools. In addition to this quasi-privatization of public schools, you blatantly spoke out about your intentions to meld schools with the private sector. You even boldly stated that students in Culebra should start being trained to be streamlined into the tourism industry, as if tourism should be prioritized as the only viable option for young Puerto Rican students as they grow up.

 

Even now as you step down from your former position, you will receive a salary of $250,000 just to serve as an advisor the education department of Puerto Rico. This is more than 10 times the average salary of a teacher in Puerto Rico, which only further highlights the longstanding disrespect you have exemplified for the public school teachers of PR. You have described unionized teachers engaging in peaceful civil disobedience as “violent” in attempts to invalidate their defense of an uncompromised public school system. Teacher unions have been part of the foundation of Puerto Rican cultural preservation, as they were key activists in the fight against English-only education efforts in the 1900’s and for keeping Puerto Rican history and cultural traditions in curriculum.

 

PR’s community of teachers has already been damaged by recent anti-union legislation, and your proposed charter schools would only further harm it as teachers and locally elected school board members are largely left out of their decision making process. These charter schools which you proudly explain are schools that use government funding yet are run privately (or in other words, not run democratically) further expose the colonial government practices already present in PR, which you uphold.

 

Beyond the political tone-deafness of the “reform” you have implemented in Puerto Rico, your sureness of their success only speaks to how little you understand life in Puerto Rico and the students you are meant to serve. PR residents know how long it can take to travel around the island due to road congestion and a lack of reliable public transportation. Forcing teachers to work 2 hours away from home through your merging of public schools is hugely disrespectful to their time and value. Working parents also cannot just drive their children to far away schools when buses are not available. Furthermore, the higher number of buses that would be required to transport students to school would only worsen the air pollution which causes Puerto Rican children to suffer some of the highest rates of asthma in the world.

 

Charter schools also consistently underserve and exclude students with special education needs, which account for more than 40% of all Puerto Rican students. This must not be ignored in plans for PR’s public school system.

 

The island’s limited funds for public education should be used to repair and update existing school buildings, not spent on unnecessary and detrimental charter schools and temporary trailers. You have relied on the emigration of families after Hurricanes Maria and Irma to justify your closing of schools, but basic logic dictates that closing schools would only worsen the conditions that made them leave in the first place. For many Puerto Ricans, moving to the mainland US was not meant to be a permanent relocation, but your “reform” only makes it harder for families to eventually return to their homes. You are closing pillars of local communities, which in turn weakens the entire island’s social and economic progress.

 

Though perhaps said jokingly, perhaps said in attempts to ameliorate the image of a non-Puerto Rican undermining the island’s public school system, you have referred to Puerto Rico as your “adopted land.” Though being Puerto Rican is not just about where you live and the diaspora is an integral part of the community, a fundamental part of Puerto Rican identity is a deep shared history of struggle and resilience, which you can never be a part of. This is especially true with your commitment to your role remaining outside of the sphere of the island’s politics. While the support of public education should always be bipartisan, no current administrative position in Puerto Rico is apolitical, especially not under the undemocratically appointed fiscal control board of PROMESA.

 

Sincerely,
Adriana Colón-Adorno

 

Yale College Class of 2020

 

Supporters of this Letter:

Dr. Adriana Garriga-López

Department Chair and Associate Professor of Anthropology at Kalamazoo College in Michigan

Agarriga@kzoo.edu