Recent demonstrations in Puerto Rico have highlighted a desperate need to overhaul the island’s entire educational system. Students and teachers have been unsatisfied with the government’s lack of leadership and outraged by layoffs, budget cuts, tuition hikes, and attempts to privatize the system.
A one-day teachers strike nearly paralyzed public education in Puerto Rico last August. Teachers took collective action to draw attention to the general deterioration of the island’s public school system.
The teachers charged that the government had failed to fill 1,000 vacancies for the new school year. The teachers argued that the personnel shortage hurts students and gives teachers extra work. They also say there is a major shortage of textbooks and paper for photocopies.
The teachers’ strike comes on the heels of an almost two month-long student protest on 11 campuses of the University of Puerto Rico system that ended last June. More than 62,000 students took part in the massive demonstration that started on April 21 and virtually shut down all but one of the 11 university campuses.
The multi campus-wide show of strength was another organized attempt to protest major municipal layoffs ordered by Gov. Luis G. Fortuño, a Republican elected in 2008. Puerto Rico has been dealing with a huge budget deficit and 16 percent unemployment.
For more information on both protests you can read the September political column at ElBoricua.com.