U.S Department of Education announces $215 million in American Rescue Plan Funds to support students in Puerto Rico
U.S. Secretary of Education announces that $215 million from the American Rescue Plan funds would be disbursed to schools across Puerto Rico.
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On July 29th, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and Puerto Rico Secretary of Education Eliezer Ramos Parés announced that $215 million from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds would be disbursed to schools across Puerto Rico ahead of the new school year.
Puerto Rico continues to recover from the damages caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017. The continuous population shrinkage and deteriorating infrastructure poses many issues for students and educators.
The funds can be used for mental health services, academic recovery, educator professional development, and community and family partnership, that can ease the burdens of students and educators alike.
In February, Puerto Rico governor announced that all public school teachers would receive a temporary $1,000 monthly salary increase that went into effect in July of this year. This change could not have been possible without the relentless efforts of 70% of teachers who left their classrooms and joined a protest to demand higher wages. The circumstances and economic strain these educators experienced forced them to seek better pensions and the improvement of working conditions.
“For years, we’ve truly been waiting for this moment,” said Victor Bonilla, president of the Puerto Rico teachers’ Association, which represents some 25,000 teachers according to U.S. news.
For the past 13 years, the base salary for teachers in Puerto Rico has been $1,750 a month, but now thanks to Miguel Cardona and Eliezer Ramos Parés, there will be a 30% increase for the average teacher in Puerto Rico.
Secretary Cardona said, “One year ago, I met with Secretary Ramos Parés for the first time to discuss the collaborative and transparent work that we envisioned to serve students in Puerto Rico. Since that day we haven’t stopped working to ensure that every student across the island has their fair shot at success and for our teachers to be treated with the respect and dignity that they deserve.”
As many schools in Puerto Rico continue to suffer infrastructure damage, many efforts continue to be made to help improve the learning environment for students.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, “Secretaries Cardona and Ramos Parés were joined by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator Jose G. Baquero Tirado and Ponce regional Superintendent Dr. Roberto J. Rodriguez Santiago at Escuela Superior Dr. Pila to celebrate the beginning of the school’s reconstruction. Escuela Superior Dr. Pila has been closed for over two years due to infrastructure damage and is one of the largest schools in the southern region of Puerto Rico to be disproportionately impacted by recent earthquakes. FEMA has obligated over $700,000 to the Puerto Rico Department of Education (PRDE) to support the reconstruction of Escuela Superior Dr. Pila.”
However, the efforts to help Puerto Rico don’t end there. “The Department of Education also approved PRDE’s use of ARP funds for short column repairs at schools impacted by natural disasters,” as stated by the U.S. Department of Education. The goal is to make classrooms safer and accessible for students and educators to continue to thrive despite the setbacks caused by Hurricane Maria.