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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Lawmaker assails Education Dept. over late delivery of school supplies

Rep. Deborah Soto Arroyo

By The Star Staff

House Education Committee Chairwoman Deborah Soto Arroyo expressed frustration on Thursday that the Education Department only this month sent classroom supplies that had been requisitioned since October to island schools.

Soto Arroyo said the department once again failed children and young people in the public education system after the unjustified delay in delivering school materials.

“Today I want to state that this House of Representatives repudiates with all its might the gross negligence of the Department of Education and its neverending bureaucratic processes that continue to punish our students and the country’s teaching class,” the lawmaker said. “Unfortunately, on this occasion, once again our schools lack the basic materials to carry out the teaching and learning process at a time when the department has a historically large budget for these purposes.”

“The department has the ministerial duty to do everything in its power to comply with the requirements that the agency itself lays out for school directors in relation to the dates that it establishes for each director to make the corresponding requests before the end of the current fiscal year,” Soto Arroyo continued. “However, for some reason, this has not happened. Instead, the Department of Education sends a communication to the school directors indicating that they have until today, May 31, 2023, to carry out the required requisitions in their schools. Otherwise, they need access to funds from the Design for School Excellence (DEE by its Spanish initials) Program. Each campus accesses these funds after submitting a framework that describes the work to be done during the school year and the efforts to meet institutional goals and each student’s academic achievement.”

One of the factors to consider for allocating this budget item is the school’s enrollment and other indicators of academic achievement. Each school director makes their requests according to the identified needs. The purchase is deducted from the DEE item upon receipt of the materials, the legislator said.

“However, suppose these materials are not delivered to the schools,” Soto Arroyo said. “In that case, the purchase is not reflected, leaving the money in the pipeline. The money is committed, but the materials do not arrive and the 2023 school year has already ended.”

“Meanwhile, the Department of Education announced that for September 2023 it would start the Socio-Emotional Plan Project in schools, allocating an amount of $250,000 per school for the development of family and community integration activities,” the District 10 (Toa Baja) lawmaker said. “However, we have come to learn that it is only in May 2023 that the budget of each campus was committed to complying with the program. That is, with a delay of one year without knowing when it will begin. Similarly, all funds allocated to schools for professional development for teachers were lost after the end of the school year -- an estimated amount of $25,000 to $30,000 per school.”

“We are demanding that the secretary of Education, Eliezer Ramos, identify why the materials have not reached the schools even though some schools had made the requisitions when the Excellence Design Plan was approved,” Soto Arroyo said. “There must be some consequence. This cannot go unnoticed because at the end of the road, it is our students and teachers who are hurt.”

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