SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico—The Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico, with the support of the American Federation of Teachers, has demanded information from Puerto Rico Education Secretary Julia Keleher regarding the ongoing process to turn public schools into charter schools, also known as Public Alliance Schools. According to AMPR President Aida Díaz, the union continues to receive inquiries from teachers and parents requesting assistance after informally learning that their schools will become charters.
“To this day, we have not seen an official statement from the Department of Education regarding the ongoing process being carried out. This lack of transparency and access to information contributes to a climate of uncertainty that could later foster the loss of students to the system and an exodus of professional talent,” said Díaz.
In the letter, (in Spanish and English), AMPR stressed that the department is not complying with important transparency requirements established by Act 85-2018. “Despite the regulation that requires entities to make community consultations, these consultations have not taken place in those schools that are being announced as Public Alliance Schools,” Díaz affirmed.
AFT President Randi Weingarten said: “The secretary of education’s decision to convert 30 traditional public schools to charters with no consultation from parents, teachers and communities, and with zero transparency, is in defiance of the law and will further undermine the public school system, which is already tragically underfunded.
“Who are the charter operators that the secretary has designated to take over the schools? What will parents do if they want to keep their children in their local school that is being converted? What recourse do parents have if a charter operator takes money out of the classroom in order to pad the pockets of administrators or the charter school company? Will parents or educators have a voice in the conversion? What will happen to teachers who want to teach at their neighborhood school? It is precisely these questions and more that Keleher has a public obligation to answer. This is a public school system, not a private one. It’s well past time that she gives the public a full accounting of all her actions, which, to date, have been cloaked in secrecy and in defiance of the law.
“Keleher would also be well advised to look closely at the results on the mainland, where the merits of the charter school movement have been oversold and the results have fallen far short of inflated claims. That’s true in Ohio, where charter operators have bilked hundreds of millions of dollars from public schools. And it’s true in Los Angeles, where teachers went on strike last month because hundreds of millions of dollars were taken out of public schools to fund charters, leading to schools having no nurses, counselors, librarians and mental health professionals. The NAACP looked closely at the damage and uneven results related to charter schools and called for a moratorium on new charters.
“According to a November El Nuevo Día poll, only 18 percent of voters in Puerto Rico support turning public schools to charter operators. Yet Keleher ignores the vast public sentiment that is strongly opposed to her actions. It’s time that Keleher put the interests of parents, students and teachers ahead of charter operators and delay any further implementation.”