'Disaster Capitalism Strikes Again!': Puerto Rico's High Court Gives Green Light to Charter Schools, Vouchers

New ruling overturns finding by lower court that charters and vouchers—part of the island's education overhaul post-hurricane—were unconstitutional

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Education historian Diane Ravtich called the new ruling from Puerto Rico's high court a "victory for rapacious billionaires" and charter proponents like Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. (Photo: Lorie Shaull/flickr/cc)

Puerto Rico's controversial plan to overhaul the island's education system moved forward after its high court issued a ruling this week overturning a lower court's finding that charter schools and vouchers were unconstitutional.

"Disaster capitalism strikes again!" commented education historian Diane Ravitch, who also called it a "victory for rapacious billionaires, [Education Secretary and charter school proponent] Betsy DeVos, and DFER [Democrats for Education Reform]."

"Instead of putting the PR economy on a path to recovery," Ravitch added, "the disaster capitalists will give them charters and vouchers."

The legal challenge was brought forth by teachers' union La Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico (AMPR),  soon after the Gov. Ricardo Rosselló signed into law "education reform" legislation creating a charter schools pilot program in 10 percent of public schools and offering private school vouchers to 3 percent of students. The plan has been promoted heavily by Julia Keleher, Puerto Rico's non-Puerto Rican Education Secretary.

"To say charters are public schools when they are going to be administered, directed, and controlled by private hands is clearly an illegal and unconstitutional contradiction," AMPR president Aida Diaz said at the time.

In response to the new ruling, Providence Journal education reporter Linda Borg posed a question on social media:

Also referring to post-Katrina New Orleans, Jeremy Aponte, a member of the Boston Teachers Union's Puerto Rican educators group and Jessica Tang, president of the union, recently wrote, about how the devastating  in 2005 "was used as an opportunity for the dismantling of a public education system that primarily served low-income black students."

They described the transformation as a failure for the community:

Currently there is not a single public school in the New Orleans School District. The purported successes of the charter school movement have not come to fruition. Charter schools have maintained segregation, decreased accessibility to local schools, and have underserved students with special needs. They have reduced the number of veteran black teachers and administrators from the impacted communities in a favor of teachers with no background, connection, or cultural competency in the predominantly black school district.

"Puerto Rico must be able to develop a public education system that serves the needs of the communities and the people who call Puerto Rico home. The temporary exodus of families, due to the lengthy rebuilding process, cannot become an opportunity to pillage the public education system," they argued.

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