Education Week - February 14, 2018 - 1
VOL. 37, NO. 20 * FEBRUARY 14, 2018
AMERICAN EDUCATION'S NEWSPAPER OF RECORD * © 2018 Editorial Projects in Education * $ 5
BRE AKING NEWS DAILY
Recovery of Puerto Rico's Schools at Crossroads
Mainland Schools Continue
To Enroll Displaced Students
Tensions Rise Over Path Ahead
For Puerto Rico's School System
By Denisa R. Superville
By Andrew Ujifusa
The flow of students from Puerto Rico
has slowed in recent weeks, but mainland
schools continue to take in new evacuees
five months after Hurricane Maria devastated the island.
In parts of the country with large Puerto
Rican communities, districts are still hiring
bilingual staff, monitoring students closely
for signs of trauma, reconfiguring classrooms,
tinkering with their budgets, and hoping that
state education departments cough up more
money to help cover the unexpected costs.
In Florida, which has taken in the largest number of Puerto Rican evacuees to date,
educators are grappling with needs large and
small, including ensuring that high school students who may have spent months outside of
the classroom are on track to graduate at the
end of the school year. Some 11,000 evacuees
from the U.S. territory were attending the
state's public schools at the end of January.
Florida schools also have taken in more than
900 students from the U.S. Virgin Islands,
which were pummeled by hurricanes Irma
and Maria in a span of 14 days last year.
In the western Massachusetts city of Holyoke, where nearly half the resident population is Puerto Rican or of Puerto Rican descent, the 5,300-student district has hired up
to seven staff members-some of whom are
evacuees-to help students and their parents
navigate a school system that may seem foreign to them.
And nearby West Springfield, a 4,000-student
district that's been growing, has used about
$175,000 from its school choice fund to add
seven staffers, including two special education
teachers, to attend to the needs of the 75 Puerto
Rican students who are currently registered.
"They are struggling with constant
change," said West Springfield Superintendent Michael J. Richard. "Their needs are
great, and we are trying to identify them."
Unlike Holyoke, West Springfield does not
San Juan, Puerto Rico
BOUNCING BACK: Eric Collazo, a security guard at Marta Lafontaine elementary and
middle school in Utuado, Puerto Rico, is confident the school will overcome the
challenges it still faces in the wake of Hurricane Maria. PAGE 16
Photograph by Swikar Patel/Education Week
PAGE 17 >
By Madeline Will
When Michelle Andrews leaned over to talk to a disruptive 6th
grader in her class, she says the student struck her in the face,
causing Andrews' neck to snap backwards.
The 2015 incident was scary, and it also caused permanent
nerve damage, said Andrews, who had been teaching for six
years before the attack. The student was suspended for a week
for disrespect toward a teacher-not for assault-and then returned to Andrews' classroom in Bridgeton, N.J.
When Andrews asked her principal to permanently remove the
student from her classroom, she says the principal told her to "put
on her big girl panties and deal with it." Instead, Andrews decided
to press charges against the student-a move that she alleges led
to her termination from the Bridgeton school district. Andrews
sued the school board, claiming she had not been adequately proPAGE 11 >
the Janus Case?
By Madeline Will
The U.S. Supreme Court is poised
to deliver a major blow to teachers'
unions in the coming months: Teachers in about half of states may no
longer have to pay mandatory fees
if they're not union members, which
could cause drops in both revenue and
There's national speculation about
what this all could mean-while observers say this case won't be unions'
demise, it could cause the political
PAGE 14 >
Courtesy of Liberty Justice Center
When Students Assault
Teachers, Effects Linger
Five months since Hurricane Maria struck
this U.S. territory and disrupted an alreadystruggling school system, different education leaders are speaking the same basic
language: They want more and better educational opportunities for the island's 320,000
public school students.
But there are big and potentially irreconcilable disagreements between those leaders
about the best way to provide those opportunities. Some involve education policy arguments
familiar to schools on the U.S. mainland. Other
potentially difficult debates, however, deal
with issues like the basic, day-to-day learning
environment of Puerto Rico's schools.
Just a week ago, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló released a plan that would create new "alianza"
schools very similar to charters as part of
broader education overhaul legislation. Puerto
Rican law currently does not allow for charters. His proposal also includes a $1,500 annual teacher-pay raise, which would be the
first in roughly a decade.
And a separate plan from Rosselló released
late last month, with the backing of Secretary
of Education Julia Keleher, would close more
than 300 public schools, out of about 1,100, as
part of an effort by Puerto Rico's government
to get a handle on its troubled finances. (That
and other proposals must first be approved by
other governing bodies on the island, including
the Legislative Assembly.)
Keleher is also continuing her long-standing
push to decentralize the Puerto Rico education
department's power and give local K-12 officials
more authority, even as the prospect of choice
and school closures grab headlines.
"We've still got a long way to go, but we've
come a good distance" since the hurricane,
Keleher said in a recent interview here. "It's
been a real leadership challenge for me to try
to set and manage expectations."
Such proposals to close current schools and
juggernauts to lose some power. And
some teachers are wondering whether
this will signal a shift in how teachers'
At stake in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 31 are the socalled "agency" or "fair-share" fees that
Mark Janus works
as a child-support
specialist with the
of Healthcare and
public-employee unions in 22 states
charge to workers who choose not to
join but are still represented in collective bargaining. The plaintiff in the
case argues that these policies violate
free speech-he is forced to pay money
to a group that advocates for causes he
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