Appeal for Solidarity and Support to the Teachers’ Struggle in Puerto Rico
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
On behalf of the Teachers Federation of Puerto Rico (Federación de Maestros de Puerto Rico or FMPR), we extend our warm solidarity to you and the struggles you are engaged in. We would like to update you as to the current political and social situation in Puerto Rico, particularly (but not exclusively) as it affects the educational community: students, parents, teachers and families, as well as to solicit your support for our ability to escalate our involvement in these important struggles.
Due to the colonial relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico, conditions imposed on the island have important repercussions on working people of the US. From drug experimentation and forced sterilization of 1/3 of Puerto Rican women of child-bearing years to the destruction of the agrarian economy, from obscene tax breaks for multi-national corporations while the majority of the population lives at or below the poverty level to the more recent extraordinary austerity program imposed upon our people, our ability to fight back against such draconian attacks is a critical element in our common struggle against the neo-liberal agenda.
Attacks on Public Education
As in the US, the entire public educational system is under attack, from pedagogy to labor rights, from privatization efforts to the dismantling of community participation. While some of the most vicious attacks have focused on educators, similar assaults are increasing against unionized public sector workers, and those in the private sector continue as well.
The Federal Department of Education and the Governor of Puerto Rico (Alejandro García Padilla) are employing a monumental offensive to shut down more than 300 schools, impose charter schools, destroy teachers’ labor benefits, and privatize public education in our island.
The process of Federalization, which began with the implementation of the “No Child Left Behind Law,” has intensified with the rollout of the so-called “Flexibility Plan” in June 2015. Similar to the conditions attempted in the US, that federal plan mandates a punitive evaluation system for teachers based on fraudulent standardized test results; abrogation of negotiated teachers’ rights, imposes a workload that makes quality education an impossibility, and most recently penalizes students who participate in our largely successful opt-out of standardized tests movement.
The Federalization of the Department of Education in Puerto Rico vis a vis this Flexibility Plan:
- Makes a lucrative business out of education
- Imposes authoritarian rote learning
- Disallows an environment that fosters creativity and critical thought
- Facilitates the economic and cultural oppression of Puerto Ricans.
The Colonial Economic Model
This reality, combined with the profound crisis this model is encountering (resulting in the elimination of many thousands of government jobs and the deterioration of benefits), has dramatically increased already high rates of unemployment and dependency, and forced the migration of more than a half million Puerto Ricans in the past ten years. The inability of the Puerto Rican government to pay the public debt (a good portion of which involves the inadequate funding of Medicaid and Medicare and long-standing imposed dependency conditions) and the devaluation of that debt has set the stage for the IMF-recommended imposition of extraordinary fiscal measures against our people. Continue reading