On Wednesday, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona announced a partnership with the purpose of improving Puerto Rico’s education system, including areas of financial responsibility and improving school buildings.
The announcement took place during an over the phone, bilingual press conference with Cardona and Eliezer Ramos, Puerto Rico interim secretary of education, Chris Soto, senior advisor to Cardona, and Scott Sargrad, deputy chief of staff for policy at the U.S. Department of Education.
The partnership has the goal of improving educational outcomes on the island.
As part of that, the Puerto Rico Education Sustainability (PRES) Team was formed to provide support for the education system in Puerto Rico.
Among the three key areas that Cardona and the team plan to focus on is financial responsibility, including having the Puerto Rico Department of Education regain financial management authority over federal funds.
Cardona, a Meriden native with family roots in Puerto Rico, said part of the plan is also to provide technical assistance as school infrastructure improvements continue and help the Puerto Rico Department of Education (PRDE) in its use of American Rescue Plan Act funds.
“We’ll work together as partners for students, for the success and for the future of Puerto Rico,” he said.
A trip to the island to support immediate needs and hold listening sessions is also part of the plan.
Cardona stressed the plan will be student-centered, transparent and will include the voices of education stakeholders in Puerto Rico.Recent visit
Cardona traced the partnership to a meeting with Ramos in Puerto Rico two months ago during which they began a conversation about the collaborative work they envisioned to serve students in Puerto Rico.
“I’m happy to share that we haven’t stopped working since that trip and today we are highlighting another milestone,” he said.
Ramos thanked Cardona for making the partnership happen.
“This collaborative effort will move forward the agenda of the students and teachers in Puerto Rico,” Ramos said.
Ramos gave a statement in Spanish and mentioned that Cardona’s recent visit meant a lot to island residents. He is hoping the plan transforms the education system, leaving a legacy for future generations.
Cardona announced that Puerto Rico is leading the country in youth vaccinations as 86% of students on the island — ages 12 to 15 — have been vaccinated. He said that for youth that are 17 and older the vaccination rate is 92%. Teachers’ vaccination rate is 96%.
“We are really pleased with the efforts around vaccination in Puerto Rico and I’m pleased to share that they are leading the country,” Cardona said.