Education Week - October 4, 2017 - 7
In Devastated Puerto Rico, Reopening of Schools Is Far Off
in storm's aftermath
concerned about the devastating situations in Puerto Rico and the U.S.
Virgin Islands," where Weber said
she has reached out to school officials
she works with, but has been unable
to reach most of them. The group is
planning ways to help districts rebuild education infrastructure.
By Sarah D. Sparks
& Denisa R. Superville
In one school, a 24-foot wall collapsed. In the northern coastal town
of Cataño-where about 60 percent
of the population is now homeless, according to a report from NPR-three
schools were flooded. Windows were
smashed at schools in Guayama, on
the southern coast of the island, she
said. In San Juan, downed electrical
lines were a problem, she said.
"Some of them [the schools] you
cannot get into at all," Diaz said,
because it was too dangerous, with
electrical poles and lines having
fallen onto the buildings or on the
While residents and relief groups
struggle to get even basic supplies to
communities flooded or blocked by
debris, the long-term federal supports for the U.S. territory are likely
to be even harder to come by.
President Donald Trump is expected to visit the island this week,
two weeks after the storm, and late
last week, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders
tweeted that the president would
temporarily waive a maritime shipping law that was delaying getting
relief supplies to Puerto Rico. The administration has faced criticism that
the relief response has been slower
for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin
Islands after Hurricane Maria than
after Hurricane Harvey in Texas and
Hurricane Irma in Florida.
"What is catastrophic and awful
is ... not simply the effects of
Maria on the island, but the lack
of response by the federal government. This is Donald Trump's
Long-Term Closures Likely
Nearly two weeks after Hurricane
Maria, the strongest storm to hit
Puerto Rico in decades, there's less
immediate concern about reopening
schools and more about when children and families will have access to
food, running water, and power.
"On the island, there are 700,000
children and this is now a week
that they have been without power,
food, running water, access to telephones-in really scorching temperatures," said Negin Janati of the aid
group Save the Children, which has
started setting up "child friendly"
centers for child care and children's
supplies in San Juan. There is so
little fuel, she said, that the team in
San Juan has not been able to reach
much beyond the city limits.
In fact, parts of Puerto Rico have
been without power since Hurricane
Irma sideswiped the island three
weeks ago. "The situation is really
dire. It is very bad on the ground."
Of the 65 schools across the island
that Aida Diaz has visited in the
last few days, most were not fit to resume classes, according to Diaz, the
president of the Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico, an affiliate of
the American Federation of Teachers.
Cori Rojas, a teacher from Puerto
Rico, arrives in New York to stay
with family after fleeing the island
with her children in the wake of
Katrina moment," Randi Weingarten, the AFT's national president,
said referring to former President
George W. Bush's widely criticized
response to Hurricane Katrina,
which triggered devastating flooding in New Orleans in 2005.
But the U.S. Department of Education had announced it would provide regulatory flexibility during
the 2017-18 school year for schools
affected by all of the hurricanes
this summer, including extending
grant competition deadlines and
relaxing requirements for matching funds. It suggested ways for
schools to use technology to continue students' learning when
school buildings can't be used-
though that won't be of much use
to Puerto Rico for the near future.
"If we get water and we get electricity, we can start," said Diaz. "We
can clean the schools. We can prepare them [for students]," she said.
"The teachers will do that. ... We
can't clean and do anything if we
don't have water."
Recovering schools will be tough
because Puerto Rico's K-12 system
was teetering before the storms.
This summer, the territory
closed 179 schools in the wake of
a $120 billion debt and pension
crisis. Even before that, the island
had lost 27 percent of its students
and 18 percent of its teachers in the
last decade, according to a study
by the Boston Consulting Group.
Just before school started this fall,
about 1,000 teachers were relocated
because 824 schools had lower enrollment than predicted and 273
schools had more students, according to the island's education agency.
Only 62 percent of students grad-
uated high school in Puerto Rico in
2012 (the last time the Education
Department made the data public),
nearly 20 percentage points lower
than the average graduation rate for
the mainland United States at the
time. Among 8th graders, 94 percent
performed below basic in math on
the 2015 National Assessment of
Educational Progress; virtually none
scored proficient. Puerto Rico's education agency had launched plans to
break the island's single school district into seven local education systems, but those were not all fully up
and running before the storms hit.
As a territory, Puerto Rico has
less access to many federal education funds and programs, though
its children are U.S. citizens. For
example, while more than half of
school-age children on the island
live in poverty, its federal Title I
funding for disadvantaged stu-
dents is capped, as is its funding
for Title III grants for English-language learners, grants for homeless student supports, and even
supplemental food support, according to a 2016 report by a Congressional task force on Puerto Rico.
Child welfare programs, such as
child-related tax credits and utilities supports, are also limited.
Even when it comes to collecting
information, the National Center
for Education Statistics provides
an overview profile of education
data for states and the District of
Columbia, but not for Puerto Rico,
the U.S. Virgin Islands, or other
The local networks working to improve education on the island have
also been disrupted. Jill Weber, the
director of the federal Regional Educational Laboratory for the Northeast
and Islands, said she was "deeply
It's also been difficult for the teachers' union in San Juan to reach its
members-telephone service is spotty
at best and the office generator only
runs a few hours a day to conserve
diesel. The situation for those they
have reached has been grim: "They
don't have gas, they don't have water,
they don't have electricity," Diaz said.
"You have some that lost their houses."
Long-term school closures could
be devastating to the island's economy. Education and social services
employ nearly 1 in 4 adults on the
island of 3 million.
Elizabeth Morales, a school teacher
in Bayamón, the urban area surrounding San Juan, is one of them.
Hurricane Maria utterly destroyed
her 7th-floor apartment, and with
schools in the town closed indefinitely,
she is no longer being paid. Her sisterin-law, Beth Lewis of Tampa, Fla., has
launched a crowd-funding campaign
to help get her off the island.
Morales won't be the only one leaving if a recovery drags out, Diaz said.
"I have heard many people here-
not only the teachers-that want to
leave," she said. "If the conditions
continue like [they are] now, we will
lose more teachers."
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló
said in briefings that the power grid
and other infrastructure may be out
for weeks or months, and districts
in the mainland United States are
bracing for waves of students to
come from the island as soon as
transportation is more stable.
Research Analyst Alex Harwin
contributed to this report.
FroM Educ Ation W EEk Pr Ess
Author Gary Marx
and our future.
EDUCATION WEEK | October 4, 2017 | www.edweek.org | 7
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - October 4, 2017
Education Week - October 2, 2017
States Are Making It Easier To Transfer Teacher Licenses
Union Fees Again Reach High Court
Education Advisers Say White House Has Ignored Them
News in Brief
Independent Charters Aim to Elevate Their Status
In Devastated Puerto Rico, Reopening of Schools Is Far Off
Are Selectivity and Diversity Competing Goals for Teaching?
Teachers Found to Miss More Work In Regular Schools Than in Charters
Math, Reading Hurdles Drawing Joint Scrutiny
Growing Numbers of States Embrace Career Education
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: From Theory to Practice, Hurdles for Personalized Learning
New SAT Results Hard to Gauge
K-12 Budget Woes Dog States As School Year Advances
DeVos Expounds on Policy In One-on-One Interview
DeVos Gives Schools Options On Handling of Sexual Assault
Watch List: High Court, 2017-18 Term
Scenes From DeVos’ ‘Rethink School’ Tour
State ESSA Plans: One-Stop Guide
Arts Education: A Look Ahead Researchers, professors, and practitioners make their case for the future of the discipline
Susan Riley: The ‘A’ in STEAM Completes the Puzzle
Jay P. Greene: Arts Integration Is a Sucker’s Game
Howard Gardner & Ellen Winner: We Still Have So Much More to Learn
Emily Gasoi & Sonya Robbins Hoffmann: For the Future, Arts Assessment Is Indispensable
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Mariale Hardiman: Asking the Right Questions for a Creative Future
Education Week - October 4, 2017 - Education Advisers Say White House Has Ignored Them
Education Week - October 4, 2017 - 2
Education Week - October 4, 2017 - 3
Education Week - October 4, 2017 - Report Roundup
Education Week - October 4, 2017 - 5
Education Week - October 4, 2017 - Independent Charters Aim to Elevate Their Status
Education Week - October 4, 2017 - In Devastated Puerto Rico, Reopening of Schools Is Far Off
Education Week - October 4, 2017 - Teachers Found to Miss More Work In Regular Schools Than in Charters
Education Week - October 4, 2017 - Math, Reading Hurdles Drawing Joint Scrutiny
Education Week - October 4, 2017 - Growing Numbers of States Embrace Career Education
Education Week - October 4, 2017 - DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: From Theory to Practice, Hurdles for Personalized Learning
Education Week - October 4, 2017 - New SAT Results Hard to Gauge
Education Week - October 4, 2017 - 13
Education Week - October 4, 2017 - DeVos Expounds on Policy In One-on-One Interview
Education Week - October 4, 2017 - DeVos Gives Schools Options On Handling of Sexual Assault
Education Week - October 4, 2017 - Watch List: High Court, 2017-18 Term
Education Week - October 4, 2017 - 17
Education Week - October 4, 2017 - Scenes From DeVos’ ‘Rethink School’ Tour
Education Week - October 4, 2017 - 19
Education Week - October 4, 2017 - State ESSA Plans: One-Stop Guide
Education Week - October 4, 2017 - 21
Education Week - October 4, 2017 - Susan Riley: The ‘A’ in STEAM Completes the Puzzle
Education Week - October 4, 2017 - Jay P. Greene: Arts Integration Is a Sucker’s Game
Education Week - October 4, 2017 - Emily Gasoi & Sonya Robbins Hoffmann: For the Future, Arts Assessment Is Indispensable
Education Week - October 4, 2017 - Letters
Education Week - October 4, 2017 - TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Education Week - October 4, 2017 - 27
Education Week - October 4, 2017 - Mariale Hardiman: Asking the Right Questions for a Creative Future
Education Week - October 4, 2017 - CW1
Education Week - October 4, 2017 - CW2
Education Week - October 4, 2017 - CW3
Education Week - October 4, 2017 - CW4