Candidate Delgado urges action to connect low-income students

By John McPhaul

Popular Democratic Party (PDP) candidate for governor Carlos “Charlie” Delgado Altieri urged the island Education Department on Wednesday to draw up a work plan to serve low-income families and students who do not have internet service so they are not left out of the virtual curriculum.

“Education is a shared responsibility that goes from the student, the parents, to the teachers and the Department of Education,” Delgado said. “However, I believe that, at the beginning of this virtual semester, educational inequality is more exposed because not all families have the resources to have internet service at home. Above all, outside the metropolitan area. I hereby make a public call to the Secretary of Education to draw up a plan to address these cases, keeping in mind that the municipalities can help in this task.”

The Isabela mayor added that the problem of lack of internet access is not only limited to students, but also some teachers lack the financial resources to have the service in their residences.

“We cannot start from the premise that all students and all teachers have internet,” said Delgado, adding that the situation is worse for special education students. “That may be the reality in some parts of the metropolitan area, but it is not the case throughout the rest of the island.”

Last June, Delgado proposed converting the public school system into a community and democratic axis, where children find an environment that agrees with them, a second home where they feel protected and fed, and that allows them to access the tools to get out of poverty. The school, by itself, would be a community project, he said.

Among the proposals presented by Delgado to transform the public system into an educational community project are:

* Restructure the budget so that the funds necessary for the administration of the schools directly reach and benefit the 294,535 students, 28,000 teachers and 836 schools. The investment in services will be to meet the needs of students, improve the working conditions of teachers and strengthen and improve the public school.

* Expand extended school hours programs to offer tutoring and curricular activities, tackling school dropout rates and delinquency problems that arise from the lack of supervision of young people from 3 to 6 p.m. In addition, integrate training and study programs for the benefit of the entire community.

* Propose legislation that establishes the necessary principles for the public policy of decentralization of powers to the municipalities, with the corresponding budget in an orderly and effective manner. It would bring services to schools that mayors, who have direct immediate contact with the communities, can provide more efficiently, such as school maintenance, school transportation, security, and programs such as tutoring, arts and sports.

* Work aggressively to lower school dropout rates by offering educational services that will be identified individually for each girl or boy, by teachers and the school community.

* Support educational models that work, such as Montessori education, teaching using the neuro-learning model, and residential schools for gifted students.

* Implement strategies so that the use of technology is no longer an additional element of discrimination for students. Having or not having access to the internet cannot be an additional factor that hinders students’ academic achievement.

* Establish a system of total transparency where the transactions of the Education Department are in the public domain and do not allow corruption or economic exploitation of some sectors of the population.

* Rescue, strengthen and expand vocational and technical education programs so that Puerto Rico has leaders in industry, commerce and public service capable of critical thinking and supporting economic development.

* Ensure the fiscal and economic stability of the University of Puerto Rico by returning the resources and funds that have been taken from the institution in the past four years. Assign annually to the UPR a budget based on the gross national product (GNP), which will begin with an allocation of 1.05 percent of GNP for fiscal year 2021-2022 (the first budget of the next administration) and reach 1.38 percent in four years.