In the midst of an economic and fiscal crisis on the island, authorities in Puerto Rico are closing 184 public schools in an effort to save millions of dollars in the midst of a governmental bankruptcy. Thousands of Puerto Ricans are seeking to leave, going to the mainland in increasing amounts over the last decade.
 
About 27, 000 students will be shifted to other schools at the end of May, said Education Department spokeswoman Yolanda Rosaly. Education Secretary Julia Keleher is expected to provide further details. This constitutes the biggest mass closure of schools in the history of the U.S.-controlled territory or the United States. It is on top of the 150 schools Puerto Rico closed over the span of five years from 2010 to 2015.
 
Transportation logistics and special education needs were not factored in, claim opponents of the closures. About 30 percent of Puerto Rico students receive specialized education, which is twice the average in the U.S. mainland.
 
Puerto Rico now has 1,292 public schools, serving 365,000 students. Enrollment has dropped on the island by 42 percent over the past three decades. Within the next few years, an additional 22 percent drop is expected, according to the Boston Consulting Group which submitted a report last year in an effort to restructure Puerto Rico's education system. Schools have lost students because of the flight of families to the U.S. mainland where parents can find work and thousands of teachers are in demand for their bilingual abilities. The drop in enrollment caused departures from the island is coupled with Puerto Rico’s low birthrate.


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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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