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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Teachers groups to protest new charter schools

Photo by New York Times

By The Star Staff

The Teachers Federation and allied organizations will denounce government plans today to open dozens of new charter schools in Puerto Rico, reviving a decades’ debate.

The groups will explain how this model of privatization of public schools has been linked to corruption in other jurisdictions, by diverting public funds to private entities that seek profit, not a good education. These schools also discriminate against certain types of students, such as those from disadvantaged communities and those that have special needs.

“There is a need to establish a moratorium on the plan for new charter schools because they deviate public funds to private entities, turning education into a business,” the groups said in a statement.

The protest is slated to take place at the site of the construction of the Paradiso Charter School in Rio Piedras.

A charter school is a public school that operates as a school of choice. Charter schools commit to obtaining specific educational objectives in return for a charter to operate a school. Charter schools are exempt from significant state or local regulations related to operation and management but otherwise adhere to regulations of public schools — for example, charter schools cannot charge tuition or be affiliated with a religious institution.

Unlike the mainland U.S., the island’s public education system mainly serves low-income communities; the majority of middle-income and upper-income families use parochial or private schools. On average, 70 to 80 percent of the student population at any given public school in the island live below the poverty line, according to numbers from the Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics (PRIS).

Students under the poverty line are more likely to drop out of school than a student living in a household above the poverty line.

As part of the island’s education reform process in 2018, officials closed hundreds of schools and implemented new online systems to manage teachers’ placements and student enrollments.

The government then moved forward with a plan to open several charter schools, a decision that generated debate and discussion.

Charter schools receive public and private funds to operate, and their financial and operational models have been the center of many heated debates for decades. People who favor the model see charters as public schools because enrollment is open to all students and there is no tuition. Critics argue that charter schools inject public funds into the private sector, raising concerns over public accountability and potential labor issues.

For decades, teachers groups have warned against diverting funds from public schools at a time when the government is going through a fiscal crisis.

Still, according to public records, for the 2023 school year, there are 4 charter public schools serving 568 students in Puerto Rico, including the Rosalina C. Martinez and Academia De Ciencias Y Tecnologia.

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