Rosselló’s Fiscal Plan Sparks Outcry at Teachers Federation
SAN JUAN – The Puerto Rico Teachers Federation (PRTF) denounced Thursday that the measures included in Gov. Ricardo Rosselló‘s fiscal plan will represent a negative impact on educational services and teachers’ pensions, which is why they are requesting a meeting with the governor, without brushing aside the possibility to convene a strike.
Although the governor said Wednesday that he wouldn’t enact the budget cuts recommended by the financial control board to the Teachers Retirement System, PRTF President Mercedes Martínez assured that the fiscal plan’s austerity measures, along with selling the system’s loan portfolio, would render it insolvent. The loan portfolio has amassed $372 million in the past 10 years.
Beyond cuts to the retirement system, Martínez expressed concern over the proposal to consolidate schools, arguing it would increase overcrowding, which had already increased during the past administration. “With the reconfiguration executed by former Education Secretary Rafael Román, there has been a massive proliferation of classroom overcrowding,” she stressed.
Martínez also criticized the proposal to shift schools’ administrations to municipalities or nonprofits, as she believes that would increase expenses to oversee installations, and would reduce employees’ acquired rights. Regarding transfers to third-sector organizations, Martínez said that could lead to privatization.
These measures would reduce the quality of service that students receive, she assured, as well as contributing to the island’s exodus of educators, adding that more than 6,000 teachers have emigrated in recent years.
The federation president said it presented a document with proposals to Rosselló before he was sworn in. Among other things, the document proposes the elimination of Education Department contracts with external advisers, arguing that the entity can seek advice from experts within the department. It also recommends consolidating districts and regions as a means to reduce spending and bureaucracy.
In addition, the federation advocates for the audit of the public debt and that taxes on foreign corporations be increased. PRTF representative Miguel Rivera insisted that one of the fiscal plan’s main problems is it doesn’t address the outflow of capital, which he said is the underlying problem of Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis.
The PRTF will hold an assembly on March 18 to discuss the administration’s measures and subsequent course of action. Martínez assured she is willing to meet with the governor and exhaust all “diplomatic resources,” but if these don’t deliver results, she said the Education Department should brace for the paralyzation of the public education system.