Press Release

AFT President Randi Weingarten and AMPR President Aida Díaz on FEMA Cutting $1 Billion in Aid to Puerto Rico Schools

For Release: 

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Contact:

Andrew Crook
o: 202-393-8637 | c: 607-280-6603
acrook@aft.org

MIAMI—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico President Aida Díaz issued the following statements in response to news reports that Puerto Rico’s Secretary of Education Julia Keleher has warned that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is cutting $1 billion in aid earmarked for Puerto Rico schools, putting the stability of public schools still damaged from hurricanes Maria and Irma at risk.

AFT President Weingarten said:

“The Trump administration’s decision to cut $1 billion in FEMA aid for rebuilding Puerto Rico’s schools is sickening and deeply disturbing, and the fact educators learned about it through media reports only rubs salt in the wound.

“Puerto Rico’s teachers are on the front lines; they wake up every day and work to ensure schools are centers of the community where kids want to learn and teachers want to teach. But nearly 18 months after Hurricane Maria, the federal government has broken its promise to repair and rehabilitate the island’s schools. Every week, the Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico and the AFT hear from educators about mold damage and leaky roofs. While nearly half of Puerto Rico’s schools still have mold damage, that damage can’t be fixed because FEMA has yet to take the first step of repairing roofs and other physical infrastructure. And temporary classrooms that were supposed to last only six months are still being used, with no sign of permanent replacements.

“Schools in Puerto Rico still need billions in repairs and investments just to recover to where they were before Irma and Maria.

“It’s incumbent on FEMA to reverse course. And it’s imperative for Congress to hold hearings about the recovery effort and compel the administration to take its responsibility to Puerto Rico’s public schools—and the children who rely on them—seriously.”

AMPR President Díaz said:

“The federal government must understand that the public education system of Puerto Rico needs its support to get stronger, so it can move toward excellence. According to reports from prestigious universities in the United States and Puerto Rico, the suffering caused by Hurricane Maria has led to a psychological crisis in our children, youth and teachers. The physical deterioration of our schools is evident: Many still lack roofs in some classrooms, or have no gym or dining areas, creating health and safety problems for our children. A school with a damaged infrastructure is an unacceptable environment for learning and deepens the psychological harm to our children and teachers. We demand that FEMA desist from the announced cuts in recovery funds. This is cruel and foolish. The United States Congress should demonstrate its support for Puerto Rico and do what is necessary to avoid these cuts.”

# # # #

The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.