‘Pay Our Special Education Teachers Before Vulture Capitalists’ Demand Puerto Rican Protesters

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Every student with special needs in the United States is guaranteed a Free and Appropriate Public Education under national law.

 

So why has the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico stopped paying its special education teachers?

 

More than 100 parents, therapists, psychologist, occupational therapists, students and teachers marched on Monday to the capital in San Juan to find out.

 

The rally began in front of the legislature at 9 before protesters marched to the governor’s mansion at 10:30 am. Demonstrators then met with representatives of Governor Alejandro García-Padilla.

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The answer may be a crippling $72 billion debt. Puerto Rico is besieged by vulture capitalists encouraging damaging rewrites to the tax code while buying and selling the territory’s debt.

 

The Commonwealth government has been prioritizing payments to American private equity moguls instead of services for communities such as public schools.

 

“Our Children Before Vulture Capitalists,” proclaims one protestor’s sign.

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Jinnette Morales agrees with the sentiment. Morales organized the protest.

 

“No credit line would back up this lack of payment,” says the mother of a child with Down Syndrome.

 

 

“These therapists have been working for months without pay and if Secretary of Education Rafael Román says that he has paid them, I want to hear him say that when we take him to court.”

 

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Though the Commonwealth Department of Education hasn’t paid these professionals in up to six months, students still have been receiving services. Special education employees have been working without pay. However, that can’t continue indefinitely.

 

The therapists, psychologists and teachers have had enough. They simply can’t continue without an income.

 

So starting this week, roughly 1,200 students are without services they are guaranteed by law.

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“We are talking about children’s humans rights to receive an appropriate and quality education,” says Mercedes Martinez, president of the Federación de Maestros de Puerto Rico (FMPR) – the teachers union.

 

 

“Children need these therapies to progress in their development. Therefore, we stand with the workers, parents, and students and demand action from the governor of our country.”

 

Protesters are demanding special education employees be paid immediately so child services can continue with as little interruption as possible.

 

After arriving at the governor’s mansion, activists met with the governor’s attorneys.

 

They were told the government will eventually pay the special education teachers, says Martinez. In the meantime, officials suggested improving billing for services. Instead of having all invoices be digitized and go through corporate channels, special education teachers can provide manual bills. This will shorten the amount of time between billing and payment.

 

Protesters are scheduled to meet again with government officials on Thursday to pin down an exact date when payments will begin.

 

Until then, many demonstrators are camping out in front of the governor’s mansion vowing not to leave until the government makes good on its fiscal responsibilities to teachers and students.

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“The government needs to pay the debt with these professionals before our country’s debt,” says Martinez.

 

“Our children should come first.”

 

 

This monetary crisis is imported from the mainland. Legislation is being manipulated by corporate interests profiting off the chaos. Moreover, hundreds of American bankers and entrepreneurs are using the Commonwealth as a tax haven.

 

As a result, tax revenues are drying up while the super rich rake in profits.

 

Officials warn the government may be out of money to pay its bills sometime this year. Over the next five years, it may have to close nearly 600 more schools – almost half of the remaining facilities!

 

Of the 135 schools closed in just the last two years, Román had originally proposed shuttering 200. The remaining 65 were only kept alive because communities occupied the buildings and refused to let the government step in.

 

Despite Wall Street manipulation, Puerto Rican communities aren’t letting their government sell their children short. The fight goes on.

 


 

MORE ON PUERTO RICO:

Hundreds Gather in Puerto Rico on Martin Luther King Day Demanding Arts Education

 

Puerto Rico Teachers Plan One-Day Strike to Protest Corporate Education Reform

 

In Puerto Rico, Students Go On Strike to Stop Teacher Relocations

 

Parents and Children Occupy Puerto Rican School Refusing to Let Corporate Vultures Raid Its Contents

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15 thoughts on “‘Pay Our Special Education Teachers Before Vulture Capitalists’ Demand Puerto Rican Protesters

  1. This is why things must change radically in this country. We must elect a government where people and not the oligarchy that owns this country comes first. Puerto Rico would not be in this mess if we had a more progressive income tax. If someone with $20 billion dollars would pay his or her fair share, there would be enough to pay for all government services. And yes, these services should be provided by government. I want an end to all privatization of government services. We must return to having a public and a private sector. This hybrid of privatization fails everyone–especially those most in need.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The reason that Puerto Rico has had to reduce spending is that no one will lend them money anymore. If you feel that this is unjust, lobby for the managers of your pension funds to loan government entities in Puerto Rico the money they need to maintain their old spending levels. I am sure that you would be willing to bet your retirement income on the good citizens of Puerto Rico paying you back.

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    • U.S. law does not say special needs students are guaranteed services ONLY IF WE CAN AFFORD IT. The law says all special needs students will get those services. The government is breaking the law. Not supporting children’s needs because of the financial decisions of functionaries is not an allowable option. Moreover, it’s unfair to those children who had nothing to do with the debt. Funny how rich kids never have to worry about anyone withholding services. It’s also funny how these sorts of choices are almost always put to black and brown children but never to white ones. Colonialism is alive and well even if its supported by unregulated capitalism.

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      • Stevenmsinger,

        I do not disagree, but as no one will lend them any money, they will have to pay for these expenses by cutting back somewhere else.

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    • Yours is a philosophy of greed. Maybe the government of PR made decisions because the social needs of their citizens are great. Why should it be the pensions of workers? The victims of capitalist greed should not have to pay for their own needs. It is criminal that 90,000 families have 44 percent of the wealth of this country. They need to pay more taxes to meet the real needs of this country. If we do not have a democratic redistribution based on a fair election in which there is no roadblocks for all classes to vote and all voices heard, I guarantee a violent revolution just like what happened in France over two centuries ago when the aristocracy rigged the system and paid no taxes.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Liberalteacher,

        I am making the simple point that Puerto Rico can not force people to loan them money, so they must somehow live within their means. Of course the Federal Government bares considerable blame for Puerto Rico’s situation (requiring all goods shipped to the island be shipped on US built, US flagged, and US crewed ships under the Jones Act of 1917, imposing the same minimum wage in Puerto Rico as in the mainland in 1983, causing a surge in out migration as the unemployed searched for work in the mainland, etc), but not all the blame.

        One decision the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority should probably change is that they should start charging municipalities for electricity. As reported in the NYT, the town of Aguadilla does not pay for ANY electricity used in the 19 municipal restaurants it runs, in the municipal water park that it runs (said to be the largest in the Caribbean), in the minor league baseball stadium that it runs, or the municipal ice skating rink.

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      • teachingeconomist, you are reducing the situation to binary thinking: either Puerto Rico illegally cuts services for children or it defaults on its debt. There is a third option. The federal government can step in and ensure the right thing is done. Worldwide, American companies keep 60 percent of their cash overseas and untaxed. That’s about $1.7 trillion annually. If we fairly taxed corporations, there would be more than enough money to bail out Puerto Rico’s schools and all the schools on the mainland struggling with disinvestment. It’s time for everyone to pay their fair share. It’s time to stamp down on greed. We can’t do that if we only see a limited array of choices.

        Liked by 1 person

      • i do not think teachingeconomist understands that if we raise corporate taxes and those companies have less profits, any reduction in pension fund investments will probably be transitory. This is just a scare tactic to keep the status quo. I believe that every employee in this nation should have a decent full time job with a living wage and a defined benefits pension. Of course, those who buy into the rights argument says that the economy does not work this way anymore because people often change companies. Therefore, make it the law of the land that all these large companies must have such pensions and if a worker moves, they money moves with them to the pension fund of the new company. The rules are only what the elite and one percent make us believe. We need a government that will meet the needs of all workers. In addition, if companies paid workers decent wages, we can go back to that old three legged stool. One part social security, the second part a decent pension, and the final part savings. Therefore, the pension could possibly be a little smaller if people made enough to save over the long term. I was lucky because I retired with all three legs. I have a good defined benefit pension and a tax deferred annuity that I do not have to touch for about another 10 years because I am still working part time. As long as my health remains, I can hold off on Social Security to at least 66. Every hard working American should have the same. However, it means that the 1% that owns 44% of the wealth of this country have to go with less. My grandfather was an old world socialist. He once said that even if you tax away three quarters of a millionaires wealth (he said this a half century ago), he still will be rich. We need two thirds of Gates sixty billion and he will still have twenty-billion. Two benefits will happen. One, his money will contribute to uplifting all Americans and he will not have those billions to be a vulture philanthropist and play around with the lives of teachers and students by being unable to tamper with the educational system by creating AstroTurf organizations and buying politicians.

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      • Stevenmsinger,

        Puerto Rico is certainly free to increase taxes (the last time they assessed property values for tax purposes was apparently 1958) and I think that they should do that. I think they should also be allowed to import goods on ships not constructed and flagged in the United States.

        I have no great problem with increasing corporate taxes, but that increase will reduce the return to owning those companies and that will cause other disruptions. The California State Teachers Retirement System owns a little over 2 billion dollars of Apple stock, for example. Higher tax liabilities for Apple are likely to mean lower values for those shares going forward and make it more difficult for CalSTRS to meet their obligations.

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      • Liberalteacher,

        The higher taxes will have to be paid from somewhere. It could be lower payments to the stockholders, it could be lower payments to the employees, it could be higher prices for the consumer. There is no free lunch.

        I think the major problem with a defined benefit retirement plan is that it leads to over promising benefits to employees. People should be fully paid for their work when they do the work, not some time 30 years later when the citizens may or may not be willing to honor the promises of the previous generation.

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      • What you say is drinking the kool-aid of the one percent. I do not accept the premise of unregulated capitalism. Yes, someone will pay for it. It will be the 1 percent that has 44 percent of the wealth. In addition, my generation is living longer. Therefore, there must be a guarantee of a retirement with dignity and independence. I may live into my 90s and there must be a guarantee. No average wage earner will be able to save 30 years of future income when there are many variables, such as inflation and economic downturns. It is the oligarchy that says there can be no guarantee because it means less wealth for them. I have traveled extensively in Europe. Those societies have made a democratic decision to have very extensive welfare states. I do not see the Danes and Fins running to immigrate to this country. They have way more income equality. I would not need such a large pension to pay for all types of insurances if I did not have to worry about the possibility of needing a nursing home or assisted living. I have to pay $500 a month because of drug coverage and long term care insurance. I speak to many college students who are willing to pay more taxes if a college education would be paid for by the state or if affordable housing would be guaranteed. Of course, we have to find the right balance of services and taxation. Now, there is little balance. The right is attempting to eviscerate what little workers have in this country. They have used race, immigration and religion in a great bait and switch scheme that have convinced many working class Americans to vote against there economic interests. However, they will not be able to fool all of the people all of the time. Mills wrote that a society must do the greatest good for the greatest number. That is the basis of my beliefs.

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      • Liberalteacher,

        I don’t think anyone accepts the concept of unregulated capitalism. There is disagreement about how much regulation, however.

        My point about defined contribution plans is that they offer a number of advantages over defined benefit plans. First and foremost, the full cost of employment is paid when the labor is done. This means there is no wage theft from employees who leave before being vested and the people negotiating the agreement are the people responsible for paying what is agreed too. In the public sector it is simply too easy to make promises that someone else is obligated to keep and too difficult to keep the promises when taxpayers can move out of reach of the taxing authority when the retirement bill finally comes due.

        I think you will find that many economists think that Denmark has gotten the labor market about right. I certainly do. Danish firms are free to fire workers and this makes it very easy for them to hire workers. That is why youth unemployment in Denmark is only a little over 10% while youth unemployment in France is just a bit under 29%. You might not be as happy with changes in income distribution in Denmark, however. Like everywhere else they are becoming more unequal, but Denmark is becoming more unequal faster than any other country in Europe.

        The problem with “free college” is that it ends up being relatively poor people subsidizing the education of relatively rich people because it is the relatively rich that actually go to college. Better to have tuition based on the resources available to the student, something similar to the system currently used.

        Like

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