Your Education Road Map

Politics K-12®

ESSA. Congress. State chiefs. School spending. Elections. Education Week reporters keep watch on education policy and politics in the nation’s capital and in the states. Read more from this blog.

School Choice & Charters

Puerto Rico Governor Signs Bill to Expand Choice and Revamp Public Schools

By Andrew Ujifusa — March 21, 2018 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print


Gov. Ricardo Rosselló signed the bill into law on March 29. For more details, see below.

Puerto Rico’s legislature has approved a major education bill that will overhaul the island’s educational system and pave the way for vouchers, as well as schools intended to resemble charters.

The legislation, which passed the Senate Monday and the House on Tuesday, would break the island’s system, which is currently comprised of one unified school district, into seven different regions where local officials would have more control. It would also set a guaranteed per-pupil spending figure—in a previous interview before the bill was introduced, Secretary of Education Julia Keleher said the legislation would solve what she called serious fluctuations in that figure between schools.

And the bill matches a separate fiscal plan submitted by Gov. Ricardo Rosselló by consolidating school staff in fewer buildings. That fiscal plan calls for roughly 300 public schools to be closed, although the plan has yet to win final approval.

Go here to read our coverage of the island’s schools from February and March. And our coverage from October is here.

Rosselló and Keleher have argued the system is in drastic need of big changes, given the island’s financial crises and struggling school system. They’ve also said the plan will bring more attention to students and less on adult concerns. But the school closure plan, along with the proposal to expand choice in Puerto Rico, has drawn fierce opposition from the Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico, the island’s teachers’ union that represents 28,000 active teachers. They argue the plan will cause an exodus of teachers and students from the island and severely disrupt neighborhood schools.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, as well as Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, oppose the plan too. (The Puerto Rican union is an affiliate of the AFT.)

The legislature approved the bill exactly six months after Hurricane Maria struck the island and upended the U.S. territory’s public schools. Both Keleher and Rosselló backed the initial education reform bill introduced several weeks ago. The governor congratulated lawmakers when the House passed the bill:

In an interview Wednesday, Keleher said that beyond the high-profile measures to boost school choice, the bill would help improve decision-making power at the local level, while also creating “a big framework that puts [in] the corner posts that define the vision for how the system should operate.”

“The idea of having all the school buildings under one strategic plan developed by the secretary is one huge step forward,” she said.

The legislation also guarantees that 70 percent of the island’s education budget must go to local schools, Keleher said. In practice, she said that should work out to a per-pupil spending figure of about $6,400 per student. It also reaffirms teachers’ rights to form unions and collectively bargain.

The Senate bill also approved by the House contains caps on the new school choice programs proposed by the governor and education secretary.

The voucher program, called the Free School Selection Program, will be capped at 3 percent of students in the first year they’re instituted, or 9,900 students and 5 percent in the second year, according to El Vocero newspaper. (Right now, the island has roughly 320,000 students, although estimating enrollment has been difficult given Maria’s impact.)

And El Nuevo Dia reported Monday that the Senate bill will restrict the share of “alianza” (charter) schools to 10 percent of all public schools operating on the island.

“This fight is far from over. We are disappointed the powers that be in Puerto Rico have bought the wrongheaded DeVos and Trump spin that charters and vouchers are a panacea,” Weingarten said in a statement Tuesday.

Follow us on Twitter at @PoliticsK12.

Related Tags:

Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Evaluating Equity to Drive District-Wide Action this School Year
Educational leaders are charged with ensuring all students receive equitable access to a high-quality education. Yet equity is more than an action. It is a lens through which we continuously review instructional practices and student
Content provided by BetterLesson
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attendance Awareness Month: The Research Behind Effective Interventions
More than a year has passed since American schools were abruptly closed to halt the spread of COVID-19. Many children have been out of regular school for most, or even all, of that time. Some
Content provided by AllHere

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Choice & Charters Virtual Charters in Hot Water Again. Accusations of Fraud Prompt $150M Lawsuit
Indiana officials seek to recoup more than $150 million they say was either wrongly obtained or misspent by a consortium of virtual schools.
Arika Herron, The Indianapolis Star
2 min read
Indiana's attorney general Todd Rokita speaks at a news conference on Sept. 16, 2020, in Indianapolis. Rokita filed a lawsuit against a group of online charter schools accused of defrauding the state out of millions of dollars Thursday, July 8, 2021.
Indiana's attorney general Todd Rokita speaks at a news conference on Sept. 16, 2020, in Indianapolis.
Darron Cummings/AP
School Choice & Charters How the Pandemic Helped Fuel the Private School Choice Movement
State lawmakers got a new talking point as they pushed to create and expand programs to send students to private schools.
8 min read
Collage showing two boys in classroom during pandemic wearing masks with cropped photo of feet and arrows going in different directions.
Collage by Gina Tomko/EducationWeek (Images: Getty)
School Choice & Charters Opinion Taking Stock After 30 Years of Charter Schools
Rick Hess speaks with Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, on charter schools turning 30.
8 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School Choice & Charters In Fight Over Millions of Dollars for Charter Schools, a Marijuana Tax May Bring Peace
The Oklahoma State Board of Education voted unanimously to rescind a polarizing lawsuit settlement, pending certain stipulations.
Nuria Martinez-Keel, The Oklahoman
3 min read
Money bills cash funds close up Getty