San Juan, Puerto Rico – On April 27, police pepper sprayed teachers in a protest led by the Puerto Rican Teachers Federation (FMPR) outside the Department of Education. The teachers were protesting the government’s plan to close hundreds of public schools as part of a massive ‘education reform’ plan to privatize public education.
The Puerto Rican Teachers Federation and allied teachers’ organizations in the Broad Front in Defense of Public Education (FADEP) have called a national teachers’ strike in Puerto Rico for March 19. The strike is in response to the Puerto Rican House of Representatives passing an education reform bill this week that would introduce charter schools and private school vouchers and that would close hundreds of public schools. The government is trying to opportunistically push through this sweeping attack while Puerto Rico is still recovering from the destruction of Hurricane Maria.
San Juan, Puerto Rico – In an escalation in their fight to stop the government from closing or privatizing public schools in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, the Puerto Rican Teachers Federation occupied Education Secretary Julia Keleher’s office Nov. 7 in an act of civil disobedience. 21 teachers were arrested standing up in defense of public education in Puerto Rico.
Eulalia “Laly” Centeno was interviewed Oct. 23 at the Puerto Rican Teachers Federation office in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Centeno is a teacher at the Salvador Brau Elementary School in Cayey and active with the Puerto Rican Teachers Federation. She talks about the danger of the government using the crisis of Hurricane Maria to impose massive school closings and privatize public education in Puerto Rico – as they’ve tried to do for years but have not been able to because of resistance from teachers and the community. She warns that the government is using the model that was used in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, when public schools were closed en masse and changed to privatized charter schools. Interview and translation into English by Brad Sigal.Fight Back!: Can you tell us who you are and what’s happening with your school?Eulalia Centeno: I’m Eulalia Centeno Ramos, better known as Laly Centeno. I’m a teacher and affiliated with the Puerto Rican Teachers Federation (FMPR). I’m an elementary school teacher at the school called Salvador Brau, which is a K-6 school. In this difficult moment that the country is living through, the school where I work is in the best possible condition because it has electricity, it has water, and it’s clean because the teachers and workers of the school did all the cleaning. We got everything ready. We organized the program to welcome back students and start the academic process. All areas are ready to start classes.
Mercedes Martinez was interviewed on Oct. 22 in San Juan, just over a month after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. Martinez is president of the Puerto Rican Teachers Federation (FMPR). The FMPR is a leading force in the struggle to defend public education and workers’ rights in Puerto Rico against attacks and attempted privatization. In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, they initiated volunteer work brigades to address people's immediate dire needs, while also speaking out and mobilizing against the government's developing plan to use the hurricane as a pretext to close and privatize schools, like what happened in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, when public schools were replaced by charter schools. Interview and translation to English by Brad Sigal.Fight Back: We're here in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Let's start with who you are and what is the Puerto Rican Teachers Federation?Mercedes Martínez: I'm Mercedes Martínez Padilla, president of the Puerto Rican Teachers Federation. The Federation is a union of Puerto Rican teachers, education workers, social workers, advisors, librarians. Educators who struggle to defend public and liberatory education in our country, in defense of the rights of Puerto Rican teachers above all, and for accessible and quality public education for our students.
San Juan, Puerto Rico – Despite strong criticisms from the Puerto Rican Teachers Federation, Puerto Rico's Education Secretary Julia Keleher is moving forward with plans to start to reopen public schools Oct. 24. More than a month after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, public schools have not yet repented since many are still damaged. Much of Puerto Rico is still without electricity and water. According to the Puerto Rican Teachers Federation (FMPR), some schools being forced to open are not adequately prepared, while others that could be opened are not slated to open under Keleher’s plan.
San Juan, Puerto Rico — On Oct. 20, one month after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, the secretary of AFSCME Local 3800, Brad Sigal, was in San Juan to bring a donation of money and medicines to the Puerto Rican Teachers Federation (FMPR, the union's initials in Spanish).
San Juan, Puerto Rico – The University of Puerto Rico administration continues to refuse to negotiate with the students here, as the 24-hour strike started April 21 has extended into its dramatic fifth week.
an Juan, Puerto Rico – Enthusiastically chanting, “Sí se puede!” hundreds of Latinos from across the U.S. came together here for the historic founding convention of the SEIU International Latino Caucus, Dec. 9-10. The mission statement of the International Latino Caucus urges organizing for the political and economic power for Latino working class families.