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PDP lawmaker calls for NPP House majority to question Education secretary

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @PCorreaHenry

Special to The Star

Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Rep. Rafael “Tatito” Hernández Montañez on Monday called for Speaker of the House of Representatives Carlos “Johnny” Méndez Nuñez and the New Progressive Party (NPP) majority to call a special session in order to question Education Secretary Eligio Hernández because he, the PDP spokesman said, converted about 50 positions of trust at the department into permanent posts.

During a press conference via Zoom, Hernández Montañez also said he proposes to amend Law 85-2018, the Puerto Rico Educational Reform Law, in order to reverse the Education chief’s decision in order to guarantee effective administration from the public entity, as such a determination would make the department “inoperable,” the PDP legislator said.

Meanwhile, Hernández Montañez also called on Méndez and other representatives to summon the Education secretary to appear at a hearing.

“It’s concerning that the unilateral decision from the Education secretary to convert positions of confidence or sensitive positions into career posts just months away from culminating this four-year period [political] term and in the middle of starting school has been complete chaos,” Hernández Montañez said. “I introduced legislation to address this questionable situation trusting that this [issue] is included in a special session’s work agenda and the NPP majority in the House gives way.”

Meanwhile, Hernández Montañez said he sent a letter to the Education secretary expressing how his determination was “not practical or functional” for the agency as it might bring conflicts to the next secretary when he or she intends to implement correct public policies at the agency.

“Likewise, I sent a letter to Secretary Eligio Hernández expressing that it is not practical or functional that the biggest and most complex agency in the Puerto Rican government is operated without a team that is trusted and committed to their Education secretary’s public policies, especially in sensitive areas such as budget, finances, teaching, security and the program directives on different school subjects,” Hernández Montañez said. “Appointing career posts to the same component that has failed our country will be preventing the new secretary of Education who will be appointed in 2021 to implement public policies correctly, as the personnel in charge of performing will not be of their trust. This decision contradicts the most basic administrative principles and must be stopped immediately.”

He also said that via letter, he requested information such as the number of students enrolled; the numbers of students, teachers, and parents who were registered and trained in the Microsoft Teams platform; how many students and teachers have access to the internet; if the agency is providing internet service for both pupils and faculty members and who is paying for it; and if the Education Department fulfilled their promise of providing $300 for educational material.

Hernández Montañez also said he questioned Hernández’s decision to begin the school year with “countless deficiencies.”

“To mention examples from the chaos at [the Department of] Education, in the first week where virtual courses were supposed to begin, the digital platform collapsed,” the minority legislator said. “Neither teachers nor students were properly trained; nor was the high percentage of students whose family income is at a poverty level taken into account. Neither the necessary infrastructure to guarantee that free internet is provided to the school community nor the technological equipment that was promised to each student since the earthquakes began in the southwest of the country has been delivered.”

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