NYC Rally in Support of Puerto Rico's Teachers
By Ismael Nunez
In solidarity with The Puerto Rican Teachers Federation, about 80 demonstrators, including teachers, college students, professors as well as community, labor and political activists, braved New York City's cold weather Feb. 22, carrying signs that read: “Education is a right, FMPR we are here for you!"
The demonstration was held outside the Puerto Rican government offices at 32nd Street and Park Avenue South in Manhattan. Protesters voiced their support of Puerto Rico teachers who have been on a weeklong strike on the island. The strike has sparked clashes with police and led to some arrests.
The New York City demonstration came after the union that represents Puerto Rico's 42,000 public school teachers declared a strike on Feb. 20. The strike was declared after 30 months of negotiations to increase salaries and address shortages of books, computers and other materials reached a deadlock. The Puerto Rican government is refusing to return to the table until the walkout ends. The U.S. Education Department, which funds Puerto Rico's education system, is demanding better results from public schools.
Angel Gonzalez, a teacher from the Bronx, who attended the Manhattan demonstration, said teachers here can relate to those on the island because they are fighting for many of the same causes.
“What we see here are the same demands that educators and students have been fighting for years," he said. "They are demanding for smaller classes, calling for an immediate end to government efforts to privatize public educaton, and improving health and safety conditions. They want more adequate teaching materials and resources for both teachers and students."
Pedro Colon Almenas, another teacher, said they support Puerto Rico teachers who are standing up for their rights.
“The union has been subjected to an increasing public campaign of attacks as they work to obtain a fair and just collective bargaining agreement for its members,” he said.
Ismael Nunez is a freelance writer based in East Harlem who contributes his articles to Puerto Rico Sun.