Teachers went on strike in Puerto Rico on Saturday to protest the closure of 63 schools and the loss of hundreds of teaching posts. They joined with parents and students to oppose the moves, in a demonstration in the capital San Juan. The protests were led by the president of the teachers union (FMPR) Mercedes Marines.
The schools being closed are all in low income areas, said Marines: 'This is detrimental to education, because the necessities of the community, the investment in infrastructure in recent years, the technology, have not been taken into consideration, and neither the parents nor the teachers have been consulted.'
One parent, Tania Gines, explained that the school is a 'sanctuary' in her community, where 73% of the population live below the poverty line. Moreover most parents in the community had not got the means of transport to take their children the 30 minute journey to the next school. Parents explained that the classes in the receiving school would be too big and that various good specialist programmes were also being cut.
The measures are being taken at the behest of the US government, in order to make financial cuts and, ironically, to 'improve education'. Although Puerto Rico is theoretically a 'free state' in fact Puerto Ricans are US citizens and the US still wields huge power in the country. Puerto Rican teachers have a long history of struggle both for fair pay and pensions but also against the kind of corporate 'reform' measures which are sweeping through the US.