• The San Juan Daily Star

Teachers Assn. to governor: Let’s talk salary upgrade alternatives

Puerto Rico Teachers Association leaders want to meet with Gov. Pedro Pierluisi to discuss possible alternatives to be presented to the Financial Oversight and Management Board to achieve economic justice for the island’s educators.

By The Star Staff

Puerto Rico Teachers Association (AMPR by its Spanish initials) President Víctor Manuel Bonilla Sánchez on Wednesday called on Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia via a letter to meet with the union to discuss the possible alternatives that will be presented to the Financial Oversight and Management Board (JCF) to improve the compensation that teachers receive from the public education system.

“Being the exclusive representative of the teachers who work for the Department of Education (DE), it is vital to discuss with the governor the terms and conditions that will be presented in favor of the teaching profession as part of those alternatives that must be agreed with the JCF,” Bonilla Sánchez said in a written statement.

He noted that, since he assumed the presidency of the AMPR a year ago, he has made a number of efforts, with Pierluisi and with DE secretaries, legislative leaders and U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, advocating for better working and salary conditions for teachers. He added that his primary interest when seeking a new dialogue with the governor, is specifically to ensure that the alternatives that are presented are real and mean true salary justice for teachers.

“We have said it repeatedly, the situation of the teaching profession cannot take any more. To the extent that the salary increase for teachers continues, the fewer professionals we will have in the country, and the flight of talent to other jurisdictions that offer more dignified and attractive conditions, will continue,” Bonilla Sánchez said. “This should be the time for the commitment of years to take shape, and for real measures to be implemented, to address this just claim.”

For her part, Sybaris Morales Paniagua, acting general secretary of the AMPR Local Syndicate, said the demand for wage justice joins various other efforts that have been made this year to achieve a better quality of life for educators in the public system.

“We have been consistent with the issue of wage justice and that our enrollment is the lowest paid working class in the country,” Morales Paniagua said. “Furthermore, if the Debt Adjustment Plan (PAD) presented by the JCF is approved, our teachers will be the public employees who will receive the worst treatment when their retirement benefits are frozen as has been proposed. So it seems to us extremely necessary that, finally, alternatives be presented to alleviate, in some way, the precarious employment situation of our membership.”

Morales Paniagua made an account of some of the aforementioned efforts, among which she highlighted the various objections to the PAD presented before U.S. District Court Judge Laura Taylor Swain and noted that the Teachers Association was the only union to present an objection to the PAD.

“We also opposed [House Bill] 1003 for leaving out the protections of the zero cut policy for active teachers in the public school system,” she said. “In addition, we have participated in different public hearings on the increase in the base salary of teachers and the payment of [teachers’ pensions].”

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