Puerto Rico’s teachers’ union has filed a lawsuit in a bid to halt charter schools and vouchers on the island before they even begin.
The Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico, which represents nearly 30,000 teachers working in the U.S. territory, filed the lawsuit on Tuesday in response to a new education law signed by Gov. Ricardo Rosselló late last month, the Associated Press reported. This law would allow charter schools and vouchers on the island, although both would be subject to caps—charters (or “alianza”) schools can constitute no more than 10 percent of schools in Puerto Rico, while the number of students receiving vouchers under the Free School Selection program would be capped at 3 percent of public school students in the first year, and 5 percent in the second.
Rosselló and Puerto Rico Secretary of Education Julia Keleher have both said the law, which also overhauls the island’s school finance system and breaks up its previously unified school district into seven localized offices, will provide more educational opportunities for the island’s students in the wake of Hurricane Maria last September. Separate proposals from the island’s government would close roughly 300 of the island’s 1,100 public schools while also giving teachers raises. However, the union has argued that taken together, the new law and separate fiscal reforms will cost teachers jobs, hurt students, and dismember the island’s public education system, which currently serves about 320,000 students.
“To say charters are public schools when they are going to be administered, directed and controlled by private hands is clearly an illegal and unconstitutional contradiction,” union President Aida Diaz told the AP.
In tweets discussing their suit, the union referred to charters as “vultures” and said that the law would privatize public education on the island.
A spokeswoman for the education department did not respond to a request for comment; the AP reported that the department had no immediate comment on the suit.
Puerto Rico’s public schools were already hampered by significant financial challenges before Maria hit. Last summer, the island closed 179 schools.