Home > Uncategorized > As Anticipated, After Circling for Months the Vulture Capitalists Have Landed in Puerto Rico… and They Are Feasting on Public Schools

As Anticipated, After Circling for Months the Vulture Capitalists Have Landed in Puerto Rico… and They Are Feasting on Public Schools

March 31, 2018

A few months ago, when Hurricane Maria pummeled Puerto Rico, several prescient analysts predicted it wouldn’t be long before the vulture capitalists swept into the island and privatized the public schools. From all I’ve read, the public education system in Puerto Rico was struggling. It operated as one centralized system that was challenged in its effort to provide an equitable education to all children on the island and had a complex bureaucracy that was ineffective at best. Like many urban districts in the US with big bureaucracies, the Puerto Rico public schools also suffered from another problem: a lack of resources. The hurricane, then, was a crisis that provided an opportunity to re-think the way education was delivered on the island… and that, in turn, opened the door for those who view market reforms as the solution to seize the day. And, from what I read in an ABC News report based on an AP article, the market-based “reformers” have convinced the Puerto Rico legislature to do just that:

Puerto Rico’s governor signed an education reform bill Thursday to create charter schools and vouchers and help turn around a department long known for its bureaucracy and struggles to administer dwindling resources.

The bill aims to decentralize the Department of Education and ensure that 70 percent of its budget reaches schools. In addition, it will provide teachers with their first raise in a decade starting next year.

Officials said the charter schools pilot program will be implemented in 10 percent of schools across the U.S. territory. The schools have not yet been identified, but those with low academic achievement will be a priority, said Education Secretary Julia Keleher.

Meanwhile, the private school vouchers will be limited to 3 percent of students starting in the 2019-2020 academic year.

And, after 600 amendments were added to the bill, it has gained the support of the union, who evidently is willing to cede control of 10% of the “marketplace” to privatizers and another 3% to children who seek to abandon public schools in favor of private schools, some of which might be sectarian. Evidently, Randi Weingarten sees this as a good quid pro quo in order to get raises for the teachers who remain in public schools.  From where I sit, Mr. Weingarten’s willingness to let the camel get it’s nose in the tent is a mistake. One look at states like AZ where privatization gained a foothold should illustrate that the private sector and their lobbyists will incrementally siphon funds away from public schools and expand on the economic divide.

Ms. Weingarten should realize that the appetite for profit is voracious.Once the privatizers get a foothold, they will incrementally siphon funds away from public schools into the charters and vouchers. The brakes might be applied now, but as we’ve witnessed in the mainland, ALEC will do everything possible to put the petal to the metal in the future.

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