Education Week - February 14, 2018 - 14
by Erin Irwin/
A sign of
hangs under an
electrical box at
school, which has
FROM TOP: Puerto Rico Secretary of
Education Julia Keleher is in the crosshairs
of a charged debate over the future
of the island's school system.
Grichelle Toledo, secretary general of
Asociación de Maestros Local Sindical,
the teachers' union, opposes proposals
by Keleher and the island's governor.
Photographs by Swikar Patel/
Why are we going
to invest money
in building schools?
Why can't we improve
the ones we have
and provide more
Associación de Maestros Local Sindical
14 | EDUCATION WEEK | February 14, 2018 | www.edweek.org
Tension Over Next Steps
For Puerto Rico's Schools
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1
open new, nontraditional ones are
anathema to others in the education
community, including the island's
teachers' union, the Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico. Both the charter
school and school-closure plans followed an extended tug of war over the
speed at which schools were reopened
in the wake of the hurricane.
"Why are we going to invest
money in building schools? Why
can't we improve the ones that we
have and provide more resources?"
said Grichelle Toledo, the secretarygeneral of the Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico-Local Sindical.
AMPR represents about 28,000 active teachers.
Ready for a Fight
The school closure plan, which
has Keleher's backing, came out
the same week as a Puerto Rico
education department report that
about 85 percent of teachers and
students have returned to schools
post-Maria, though those numbers
vary significantly depending on the
region. In Bayamón, for example,
just outside of San Juan, only about
two-thirds of teachers and students
were reportedly back as of late last
month. That means closures' impact could vary widely if they were
On that and other issues, Keleher
is moving fast, and she's shown that
she's not afraid of causing conflict
along the way.
She helped draft Rosselló's education plan and says that it's ultimately a balancing act: "I see it as
a carefully constructed road map to
manage not only the situation but
our access to human resources."
To underscore the need for such
a reassessment of resources, she
highlights the parents who text
her complaining that their children
lack teachers while other schools
have a surplus of educators. Puerto
Rico can't afford to have schools
where 95 percent of a school's costs
is going to salaries, she stressed.
At the same time, Keleher
pointed out how she planned to
secure $6,400 in funding per student, which she said was unprecedented. She has previously said
that allocations fluctuated wildly,
with some schools getting $7,000
per student and others just $2,000.
More big changes beyond charters are potentially coming down
the road. "Vouchers [are] definitely
going to be part of the reform. It's