Puerto Rico education secretary says late enrollment led to resource assignment problem
SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico Education Secretary Julia Keleher said Monday that there are students without teachers during the start of the new school year due to misplaced resources.
The official explained in a WKAQ 580 radio interview that her department has 27,000 teachers–24,000 permanent and 3,000 temporary ones–to serve 314,874 students. This means that, on average, for every 11 students, one teacher is available. However, Keleher claimed that many students enrolled late, preventing some school resources from being properly directed.
“I have a greater enrollment than expected in almost 250 schools. This means people did not enroll where I expected. And on the other hand, I have 800 schools with less enrollment, where I had assigned resources…. I have the resources within the system, but not where they should be,” the secretary explained. This new school year began with 167 fewer schools, for a total of 1,113 open ones.
Keleher noted that there were 40,000 fewer students than in August 2016. The department head said she did not know where those students are but will carry out an investigation.
Worried about a problem with transportation, Keleher said she will be following up on an Humacao case in which a provider indicated Sunday night that some children in the area would not be picked up.
“I called him and I asked him, I said ‘Sir, I don’t know, maybe it was something he forgot, but I’m learning about this case and am asking you to go to that neighborhood to pick them up.’ And the transportation provider did not confirm he was going to do it,” the secretary said.
“That’s not acceptable. We can work on the routes, identify where there are problems, make adjustments, but I will not let [children] be on the street where I know it’s dangerous and the provider doesn’t respond. That’s not going to be allowed,” she added.
The secretary assured that the case serves as an example of the situations she hopes to correct in the system during this school year.
“This year, the changes that are going to be seen focus a lot on the administrative, on accountability, and the expectation that everyone will fulfill their duties and that we do something if that is not the case,” Keleher stressed.
“Part of the system makes decisions according to its own judgment. And the provided would say ‘Well, I’m not going up there.’ … We’re not going to let people make their own rules on how this is going to work,” she said.