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Union: Public Buildings Authority threatened by Puerto Rico education reform

By on March 13, 2018

SAN JUAN — While the Puerto Rico Legislature readies itself Tuesday to pass the controversial education reform, the Independent Workers Union of the Public Buildings Authority (PBA) gathered outside the Capitol to warn that the proposal would lead to the authority’s closure.

Although the PBA is not mentioned in the bill, the union’s vice president, Javier López, said earlier Tuesday that the bill proposed by Gov. Ricardo Rosselló intends to transfer to Education Secretary Julia Keleher the maintenance, repair, design and construction of public schools on the island.

Protesters gather outside the Capitol. (Génesis Ibarra/CB)

“We believe this would rob us of work and lead to the Public Buildings Authority’s closure because we would be left with 35 percent [of the work], which would be the [police] stations and courts,” López explained, adding that 417 schools are assigned to the PBA.

The PBA has convened with the chairman of the Senate Education and University Reform Committee, Abel Nazario, and House Speaker Carlos Méndez to discuss possible amendments. However, López denounced that the legislators insist the bill does not affect the PBA.

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“Basically, the bill does encompass the PBA, where it says in the bill that all public schools will belong to the Education Department, eliminating not only the PBA, eliminating OMEP [Spanish acronym for the Office for the Improvement of Public Schools of Puerto Rico], which is part of the Education Department, and creating a new structure,” he stressed.

To address this concern, the vice president of the union suggested the bill include language to ensure that the schools “that belong to the PBA will remain under its custody.”

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“On Thursday and Friday, there was a session at the Education Department where [Keleher] brought some people from the United States who basically do the work we do and made it clear to PBA management that she was going to have control of all the schools,” López told the press.

López said the Education Department “has not paid the rent of our schools for a year and a half, with an approximate debt of $378 million.”

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