Making Puerto Rico the New New Orleans – Steal the Schools and Give Them to Big Business to Run For Profit

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Charter school backers can’t help it.

 

They see a bunch of black or brown kids displaced by a natural disaster and they have to swoop in to help…

 

Help themselves, that is.

 

They did it in 2005 to New Orleans schools after Hurricane Katrina. Now they want to do it again in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

 

“This is a real opportunity to press the reset button,” said Puerto Rican Secretary of Education Julia Keleher.

 

“…this [is a] transformational opportunity for us to start to think fundamentally differently about what it is to be in school, and how one goes about getting an education.”

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A dozen years ago in Louisiana, that meant stealing almost the entire New Orleans public school system in the aftermath of Katrina. About 90 percent of the city’s 126 schools were given to the Louisiana Recovery School District, which turned them all into charter schools.

 

In effect, Louisiana state officials elected by the white majority stole control from local school boards elected by the city’s black majority. More than 7,000 teachers most of whom were people of color and had been displaced by the hurricane found themselves replaced by mostly white teachers brought in from other parts of the country.

 

Now, more than 10 years later, the New Orleans experiment has been shown to be a failure. Scores on standardized tests have improved (kinda), but the curriculum has narrowed, teacher turnover has doubled, disadvantaged and special education students have even fewer resources while schools fight over high achieving children, students spend hours being bused to schools far from their homes, communities have been erased, and parents have less control over how their own tax dollars are spent.

 

That is what Keleher and others want to repeat in Puerto Rico – wrest control away from the public and give it to big business all wrapped up in a bow.

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Why?

 

 

Public schools come with expensive perks like local control, transparent budgets and regulations to ensure all the money is being spent on students. It’s much cheaper to run these districts with unelected bureaucrats, closed-door budgets and the ability to grab as much of the cash as possible and stuff it into their own pockets.

 

It ’s not like anyone’s going to complain. These schools aren’t for rich white kids. They’re for poor brown ones.

 

It’s just colonialism, 2017 style!

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Jeanne Allen thinks that’s a great idea.

The founder and CEO of school privatization lobbying group, the Center For Education Reform, said that charterization is the best thing that could happen to Puerto Rican schools.

 

After dealing with the immediate effects of the hurricane, reformers “should be thinking about how to recreate the public education system in Puerto Rico.” And she should know. Allen was also involved in the New Orleans fiasco turning that system over to big business.

 

She added that charter school operators across the nation, including cyber charter school managers (whose schools often have even more wretched academic results), should be thinking about how to get involved in Puerto Rico post-Maria.

 

Keleher has already begun laying the groundwork.

 

Even though many Puerto Rican schools are only operational because of the work of teachers who have cleaned them up and have opened them despite being told not to by Keleher’s administration, the Education Secretary has pledged to lay off massive amounts of teachers and permanently close more schools – even schools that are structurally sound.

 

“Consolidating schools makes sense,” Keleher said in October. “They can go out and protest in the streets, but that doesn’t change the fact that we can’t go back to life being the same as it was before the hurricane.”

 

Puerto Rican teachers aren’t letting the vultures swoop in without protest.

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Just this week twenty-one teachers in the capitol of San Juan were arrested during a rally at the Education Department headquarters. They were demanding all structurally sound schools be opened immediately.

 

“Our schools have served students well and although we recognize that it can be expensive to repair some schools, what we are asking is that schools that are ready be opened,” said social worker Alba Toro just before the arrests.

 

Administration officials are claiming the teachers were taken into custody because they physically attacked the civil servants, but witnesses say the protest was entirely peaceful.

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According to Education Safety Commissioner César González, the protesters assaulted at least three security employees and a public relations employee while inside the building.
However, protestors dispute this version of events. Eulalia Centeno, who was part of the group that went inside the building, but left before the arrests began, said that no violent acts were committed and that the protesters only demanded to see the secretary to request the opening of public schools.

 

Seven weeks after the hurricane, less than half of the island’s nearly 1,200 public schools are open in any capacity. Though many schools endured severe storm and flood damage, others were repaired and cleaned to shelter hurricane victims and are ready to take in students.

“Keleher is using the crisis as an opportunity to close hundreds of public schools, lay off senior teachers and privatize public education,” says Mercedes Martinez, President of the Federacion de Maestros of Puerto Rico, an island teachers union.

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Martinez was one of the teachers arrested during the protest.

 

When she was taken out of the building in handcuffs, her son was photographed leaning over a railing and patting his mother on the shoulder.

 

This is what real heroes do.

 

They refuse to back down despite the forces of prejudice and commerce stacked against them.

 

Will we let the charter school vampires suck Puerto Rico dry?

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6 thoughts on “Making Puerto Rico the New New Orleans – Steal the Schools and Give Them to Big Business to Run For Profit

  1. It will be worse than NOLA. The island is devastated; the people leaving for the mainland are likely those with the most resources; the schools were already quite vulnerable before Irma and María arrived. Education in Puerto Rico has been severely underfunded for decades. When these factors are combined with the need for – and the right to – instruction in Spanish it’s easy to see that privatization will wreak havoc on the cultural integrity of Puerto Rican citizens.

    TFA doesn’t have what it takes to teach in monolingual classrooms; imagine the destruction they will unleash in an official colony.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. The question of an economic plan, I leave to economists. Puerto Rico has been hungry because of the U.S. colonialism. Just right before the hurricane, it has been in dire economic conditions. It is us who maintain the U.S. and not the other way around. The U.S. extracts $44 billion from Puerto Rico’s economy every year. It is now that we are very poor. More than half of our population is in the entrails of the Empire. They would be starving in Puerto Rico.The ones who remain are very poor.

    I keep hearing that we are part of the U.S.and that is not true. We are an occupied Latin American nation. We are not U.S.- Americans living in Puerto Rico, that ridiculous. Do we have to believe what theEmpire says? Lin Miranda is so colonized that he says the same thing as the colonizer. Those who say that we are part of the U.S. are voicing the Empire’s argument or narrative. San Juan is not the oldest city in the
    U.S.They are repeating the colonizer’s opinions. The Empire has many robots in Occupied Puerto Rico. Anyway, Independence is an inalienable right supported by the United Nations weather you have an economic plan or not. The best economic plans are carried out by free nations and not by colonies.

    Hector Lopez
    Crisis and colonialism in Puerto Rico Crisis and Colonialism in Puerto Rico by Olga I. Sanabria Dávila/Sent to The ‘American’ Constitution Society for Law and Policy.

    Sent to The ‘American’ Constitution Society for Law and Policy.

    Crisis and Colonialism in Puerto Rico
    by Olga I. Sanabria Dávila

    Throughout the 1960s, it used to be the Free Associated State of Puerto Rico was touted as the Showcase of Progress and Democracy in the Caribbean as a result of its accelerated industrialization, the development of its infrastructure, education and health systems and a constitutional system of government.

    However, for a while now, many United States and international news outlets and economic reviews are writing about PuertoRico’s astronomical public debt, its junk-bond status, the overall economic crisis and the United States Fiscal Control Board that has been imposed on the elected government of PuertoRico with the mandate of putting into orderPuerto Rico´s public finances. The U.S. Congress´ PROMESA law legislated appointment of the Board.

    At present, Puerto Rico´s debt is estimated at 69 billion U.S. dollars – up from 32 billion dollars in 2006, one year after the beginning of a recession in Puerto Rico that is expected to persist for years.

    Beyond the junk bond status of Puerto Rico bonds, its unemployment is estimated at between 13 and 14 percent, it suffers a 44.9 percent poverty rate, and its economy has for decades depended on U.S. investment, low wages, tax exemption for foreign corporations, and dependence on U.S. federal funds.

    Population and other demographic data are also indicators of a showcase gone sour. The new wave of Puerto Rican migration to the United States has been continuous and has overcome the massive 500,000 peak of the migration of the 40s and 50s. The present population of 5.1 million in the United States includes the present migration, 30% professional – especially medical doctors and specialists – while an aging population of less than 3.5 million remains in Puerto Rico.

    The constitutional system of government established in Puerto Rico in 1952 with the founding of the Free Associated State was a misrepresentation and also a failure as it left intact the backdrop for the present crisis which is the colonial status of Puerto Rico. In fact, recent statements by the U.S. executive, judicial and legislative branches have made clear that PuertoRican sovereignty is under the plenary powers of the United States Congress, while its autonomy in fiscal affairs, was quashed by the PROMESA law and appointment of the Fiscal Control Board.

    United States Congressional laws govern overPuerto Rico in international relations and commerce, monetary issues, migration and immigration, maritime traffic (with U.S. Maritime Law applied to Puerto Rico), customs, labor relations and trade union organization, border patrol, airspace and transportation, communications, defense, and now the fiscal arena besides many other areas.

    It should also be emphasized that the mission of the Fiscal Control Board is to ensure that PuertoRico pay its public debt and balance its budget. Its plan is to oblige the government of PuertoRico

    § Cut back the budget of the 11 campus University of Puerto Rico by $450 million,

    § Cut back the health budget by $2 billion 500 thousand,

    § Cut back the general government budget by $17 billion to $20 billion,

    § Cut back the workday of government workers by 20% if the treasury does not have on hand $500 million by June 30, 2017,

    § Eliminate the Christmas bonus of government workers,

    § Cut back their vacation benefits,

    § Reduce the number of government agencies from 131 to 35,

    § Privatize Workmen´s Compensation, national parks and vacation centers, and several highways, ports and airports,

    § Increase the costs of some services and car registration, property taxes and other taxes, fines, tolls, permits, urban transportation, by $1 billion,

    § Cut back teachers´ workday and that of school cafeteria workers if the treasury does not have on hand $200 million by April 30, 2017

    § Privatize public entities.

    Recently, Nobel laureate Steven Steiglitz stated that measures to be taken are more severe that those imposed on Greece during its debt crisis, and that these will only make the situation worse. Several Puerto Rican economists have predicted that these measures will cause the economy to shrink by 8-10%, thus the sacrifices the program entails will not improve the economy or the lives of the PuertoRican people, but rather worsen conditions. Calls for an independent audit of PuertoRico’s public debt, have gone unheeded.

    In terms of its environmental protection and policy, ecological balance, climate change, global warming Puerto Rico is also subordinate to outside United States agencies, interests, policies, and power. This is very dangerous for the Puerto Rican population as Puerto Rico is a small island country in the Caribbean. Further part of the measure for stimulating economic development in Puerto Rico includes a fast-track for permits for infrastructure and other construction project. This will include fast-track environmental impact studies thus undermining environmental protection.

    In the present situation of fiscal and economic crisis, the Puerto Rican legislature adopted a bankruptcy law which would have made it possible for public corporations on the Island to declare bankruptcy and thus be enabled to restructure their debt. (The debt of just onePuerto Rican public corporation – the Electric Power Authority – is estimated at 9 billion U.S. dollars.) In a lawsuit by a creditors, this legislation was overruled by the United States extra-territorial Federal Court which operates in Puerto Rico. Action which followed by former Puerto Rico Resident Commission in Washington, Pedro Pierluisi, for a law to be enacted in order that the Federal bankruptcy law be applicable to Puerto Rico went unheeded. A broad movement in Puerto Rico attempting to have Puerto Rico exempted from the application of U.S. maritime law has also gone unheeded.

    In this situation, the people of Puerto Rico have already begun to mobilize. University of PuertoRico students in 8 of the campuses have declared an indefinite strike and are expected to be joined by students in remaining campuses, while university non-teaching staff have also declared a strike. Trade unions recently came together for a massive march against the Fiscal Control Board’s plans under a multisector coalition.

    The United States president and Congress have maintained a hands-off position regarding PuertoRico´s debt crisis. This has deprivedPuerto Rico of a rescue package and the tools necessary for confronting this crisis. The answers include that the United States must be forced to assume its great responsibility for the crisis in Puerto Rico, and to put an end to its colonial relationship with the United States.

    However, as noted in a number of the editorials appearing in Puerto Rico major daily newspapers, El Nuevo Día and El Vocero, responds by the three branches of the United States government have been non-committal and even indifferent (except for appointment of the Fiscal Control Board with the purpose of forcingPuerto Rico to pay its debt.)

    Many spokespersons in Puerto Rico have stated that the Puerto Rican community in the United States has a determining role because more than half of the Puerto Rican population is presently living in the United States where they participate in politics and form public opinion regarding Puerto Rico and other issues. WhenPuerto Rico was not a problem it was “swept under the rug.” However, now that Puerto Ricois an issue, the Puerto Rican diaspora in the United States can and is already exerting pressure in favor of just solutions to the presentcrisis.

    The power relationship and political subordination of Puerto Rico to the United States points to the need for solidarity including regarding the need to end the colonial status which the United States has maintained overPuerto Rico since its invasion of the Island in 1898, almost one hundred and nineteen years ago.

    Colonialism is an historical anachronism that has long been declared contrary to international law and human rights. The United Nations has repeatedly stated the right of the people ofPuerto Rico to self-determination and independence in conformity with international law, in particular Resolution 1514(XV) of the United Nations General Assembly (1960), which is considered the Magna Carta of Decolonization.

    Commitment to grassroots democracy is totally consistent with support for the decolonization of Puerto Rico as colonialism is also totally contrary to democracy. For the country ruled by another democracy is non-existent, even if there are elections every four years to elect local authorities as in Puerto Rico where at present elected local officials have lost their limited power to the U.S. appointed Fiscal Control Board.

    United States control over vital areas of PuertoRican life and the presence of of the Fiscal Control Board point to the need for support of its decolonization has to be supported. This is a matter of principle precisely because colonialism is contrary to human rights, contrary to self-determination and contrary to democracy.

    Puerto Ricans are a separate people from the people of the United States. Before the United States invasion of Puerto Rico in 1898, the nationhood of the Puerto Rican people had been forged for more than four hundred during which our culture and national identity became clear and distinct from that of any other people in the world.

    The plebiscites, referendums and the like carried out in Puerto Rico are not the solutions precisely because they have not been free exercises of the will of the Puerto Rican people. They have taken place in the context of colonial rule, military occupation, repression and persecution of the independence forces, economic dependence, and colonial legislation and U.S. Congressional legislation. Thus, their results cannot be said to reflect the true will of the Puerto Rican people. For these reasons, they have not been an exercise of self-determination.

    While the United States has maintained that it will accept the will and decision of the Puerto Rican regarding its status, it has obstructed the process by maintaining that the issue is its internal matter and not recognizing the role of the United Nations.

    But Puerto Rican pro-independence forces and even some supporting other options have recognized that the United Nations has a role to play, and have continually resorted to United Nations Resolution 1514(XV). They recognize that in order for an expression of the will of the Puerto Rican people regarding its future relation to the United States to be a free exercise, it must take place under international law because otherwise the determining factor in any exercise will be the power relationship of domination of the United States over PuertoRico.

    The present situation of fiscal and economic crisis is increasingly billed as a political crisis which will force attention to the colonial status and the need to resolve it if the fiscal and economic situation are to be addressed. Regardless of status option preferences, at present there is in Puerto Rico an overall sentiment that the present situation and the colonial status must be resolved. Cleavages along which Puerto Rico’s main political parties are divided delineate several options but according to the rhetoric of leaders of the pro-statehood party and most leaders of the Free Associated State party, the country must move away from the colonial status.

    The vibrant social movements active today in Puerto Rico regarding women’s rights, civil rights, community empowerment, the environment, youth, sports, culture, labor, cooperative and local economic endeavors, and many other areas, are in the constant encounter with the colonial status as an impediment to their objectives.

    These movements and the pro-independence movement overlap in many scenarios. Along with the efforts of Puerto Ricans in the United States and solidarity from the people of the United States and our Latin American and Caribbean region and other countries, these are the basis for the future possibility independence and democracy in Puerto Rico.

    A true exercise of self-determination with a level playing field for all options, including independence, must abide by international decolonization law. Despite this reality, important pro-independence and pro sovereignty sectors have joined forces and decided to participate in a plebiscite legislated by the present pro annexationist government of PuertoRico where, if the process overcomes a number of obstacles it faces, the two options to be presented are 1) statehood and 2) independence/free association. If this plebiscite, scheduled for June 11, 2017, takes place there may be surprises regarding the strength of the vote for the second option of independence/free association.

    In any case the struggle against the U.S. Fiscal Control Board now governing Puerto Rico and the struggle against colonialism and independence must continue, and solidarity withPuerto Rico must be stepped up.

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  3. Puerto Rico has had a number of non-binding plebiscites, concerning independence, statehood,etc. Since neither independence nor statehood can command a majority, the future of island will probably be commonwealth status, at least for the near future. Statehood will bring federal taxes, and statehood is irrevocable, remember the war between the states 1861-1865.

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