García Padilla Claims Triumph on Special Education Dispute
SAN JUAN — Gov. Alejandro García Padilla announced Friday that for the first time in history, the Education Department (ED) could prove it satisfactorily fulfills provision of services to Special Education students.
“Throughout my entire administration, protecting our people’s rights has always been one of our top priorities. We have taken many affirmative actions to attend our most vulnerable populations,” expressed the governor at a press conference in Puerto Nuevo’s La Esperanza elementary school, accompanied by Justice Secretary César Miranda and Education Secretary Rafael Román.
García Padilla said his government worked incessantly to bring justice to those who need it most, which is why he wants to “give you a taste of the fruit of our labors.”
“With much pride we reveal that for the first time in history since the Rosa Lydia Vélez case 36 years ago, the Education Department has reached a fulfillment level with the stipulations it committed to with the 2002 sentence,” he declared.
The most recent report released by the monitor who follows up and evaluates the Education Department’s rendition, Pilar Beléndez Soltero, revealed the agency’s consistent improvement regarding last year’s evaluation, and compared to all evaluations the agency has previously had.
The chief executive said Beléndez Soltero also acknowledged significant efforts the agency has done in the past years to improve the quality of services offered to nearly 146,985 students with special needs currently registered on Puerto Rico. “
We acknowledge the fact that on the four school-year term the Education Department has managed to annually increase the fulfillment level with the Judgment by Stipulation from February 14, 2002 until reaching a fulfillment level,” expressed Beléndez Soltero on her report consigned before the Court of San Juan.
The reference case’s lawsuit was presented on Nov. 14, 1980. It argued that kids and youth with disabilities weren’t receiving their rightful special education services in accordance to applicable federal and local laws.
On Feb. 14, 2002, after using all corresponding notification procedures to class, the tribunal dictated Partial Judgment by Stipulation. Through that sentence, the ED is forced to provide special education services to members of the claimant class according to its terms and conditions. For the past two years, the ED has seen a considerable increase in the fulfillment of 87 of the case’s stipulations, acquiring a 3.20 score on a 0-4 grading system, being the highest rendition level since the case.
“Today we bring justice to our students on the Special Education Program. We have proved with actions, firm and concrete, that we committed to improving, day by day, compliance with the stipulation of the Rosa Lydia Vélez class litigation. In addition, for the first time, the monitor began to perceive the closing process of some stipulations, which would imply the Court of First Instance’s jurisdiction cessation regarding recommended stipulations,” expressed García Padilla.
The governor concluded that “the new administration that begins in January will take the challenge of maintaining and continue elevating the rendition level for the wellbeing of our children who receive services theough the Special Education Program. The new administration must be responsible with our students and continue the labor we celebrate today.”