SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico’s education secretary has informed the U.S. Congress that his agency does not have the money needed to serve the basic needs of the island’s public schools.
In a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan released Tuesday, Rafael Roman asked him to take measures toward finding a solution to Puerto Rico’s $72 billion debt, which has spurred a “humanitarian crisis” among children on the island.
The secretary said the Puerto Rican government must use the little money it has available to pay down the debt, which leaves nothing for basic allocations like the amount budgeted for the Education Department.
There just isn’t enough money to meet the needs of the 379,000 public school students in Puerto Rico. Washington must act quickly to avoid some very predictable and irreparable damage, Roman said in the letter.
The official said that parents expect to find schools in top condition for educating their children, but due to his department’s lack of liquidity, the youngsters are paying the consequences of a do-nothing Congress.
Roman said the fiscal crisis and lack of liquidity endanger teachers’ wages and the payment of basic services for students like school buses, janitors and lunches.
He recalled that 58 percent of Puerto Rican children live below the poverty line, and that lunches served in public schools are often the only food that many students get to eat all day.
This is something that I as education secretary and all of us as U.S. citizens cannot allow, the education secretary said.