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Puerto Rican Teachers Federation criticizes government plan to reopen damaged schools that lack electricity and water

By Brad Sigal |
October 22, 2017
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San Juan, Puerto Rico - Despite strong criticisms from the Puerto Rican Teachers Federation, Puerto Rico's Education Secretary Julia Keleher is moving forward with plans to start to reopen public schools Oct. 24. More than a month after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, public schools have not yet repented since many are still damaged. Much of Puerto Rico is still without electricity and water. According to the Puerto Rican Teachers Federation (FMPR), some schools being forced to open are not adequately prepared, while others that could be opened are not slated to open under Keleher’s plan.

An Oct. 18 statement from the Puerto Rican Teachers Federation said, “After refusing to listen to the suggestions of teachers’ organizations, Education Secretary Julia Keleher insists on restarting the school year without schools being in any condition to receive kids. In another example of insensitivity, she threatened teachers with suspension of pay if they don’t follow her orders.”

Soon after the hurricane, the FMPR union had proposed to create assemblies of parents, teachers, students and workers to rehabilitate their neighborhood schools, and also to open up public school cafeterias to the community to help communities recover. They also proposed that the decision about when to reopen schools should be made school-by-school, based on when each school has been made safe through needed repairs and cleanup and when they have electricity and water.

The FMPR statement continues, “Secretary Keleher didn’t listen to these teachers’ union proposals and now hundreds of schools are not ready. On top of that in many parts of the country there is severe flooding that affect all parts of the academic community. For the government the reopening of schools is just something to show ‘another indication of the recovery of Puerto Rico’ to be referenced in the chief executive’s press conferences. It’s an ‘accomplishment’ to be referred to in the administration’s constant media campaign. The Teachers’ Federation calls for setting aside all considerations that are bureaucratic, political or a product of the Department of Education’s lack of sense, and instead to focus on providing an adequate climate for our students. Let's make ‘everything for the kids’ mean something rather than just being a manipulative slogan.”

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