Photo: Puerto Rican school
Puerto Rico’s Department of Education announced that it will close 100 of the roughly 1,500 schools on the island in the face of a drop in the number of students, a measure that will provide savings to the public coffers of $27 million.
Starting on Monday, authorities will notify the schools affected by the decision, which was announced earlier this month by Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla when he delivered an address on the budget for the coming fiscal year, Education Secretary Rafael Roman Melendez said.
In justifying the decision, Melendez referred to the figures released this past week showing that the number of children in the island’s schools has fallen by about 40 percent since 1980 - from 713,000 at that time to 423,000 in 2013.
In addition, it is expected that between now and 2020 the number will decline another 25 percent to around 317,000 students, according to the Education Department, which says that schools are not using 28 percent of their available space and paring back their number will result in an improvement in education and a reduction in school dropouts.
That decline in the size of the public schools student body is due essentially to the massive emigration of professional young people to the United States, as well as to the increase in children who are being sent to private schools.
Calculations are that during the past decade, an average of 45,000 people left the island each year, a situation that is aggravating the economic crisis Puerto Rico has been going through since 2006.
The Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics last Friday released its annual statistical report on the island’s educational system for 2011-2012, in which it says that during the most recent school year discussed there the island had 1,521 public schools employing 34,944 teachers serving 492,429 students, or 14 students per instructor.
In the island’s private school system there were 853 schools with 10,956 teachers and 153,775 students, also 14 students per instructor.