Education Funding

Puerto Rico Schools to Use New Aid for Teacher Raises, Hurricane and COVID Recovery

By Libby Stanford — August 02, 2022 3 min read
Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visits the University of Puerto Rico at Carolina during a trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico on July 28, 2022.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

As Puerto Rico prepares to open its island-wide school system Aug. 17, education officials there say they’ll use $215 million in newly released American Rescue Plan funds for teacher salary increases and to help schools pay for mental health services, academic recovery, professional development, and community and family partnerships.

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona announced the federal funds would be released to Puerto Rican schools ahead of the 2022-23 year during a visit with Puerto Rico Secretary of Education Eliezer Ramos Parés on July 29.

The money will allow the Puerto Rico Education Department, which operates the island’s single unified school district, to cover the cost of teacher salary raises, which began in July. The pay bump amounts to $1,000 a month or a 30 percent increase for the average teacher in Puerto Rico, according to a news release. The Puerto Rico Education Department announced the raise in February after thousands of Puerto Rican teachers walked out to protest for higher wages, better pensions, and improved working conditions, according to the Associated Press.

The money will also help the U.S. territory continue its recovery from Hurricane Maria in 2017 and a spate of earthquakes in 2020 that have devastated Puerto Rico’s infrastructure. Responding to the damage caused by Maria, the Puerto Rico Education Department made the controversial decision to permanently close 263 schools before the start of the 2018-19 school year. The Puerto Rico Education Department has been able to use funding from the American Rescue Plan and Federal Emergency Management Agency grants to cover the costs of repairs at 275 schools, according to the news release.

The territory’s education department saw a steep drop in enrollment following Hurricane Maria with total school enrollment dropping from about 365,200 in the 2017-18 school year to 259,500 in the 2021-22 school year. Department officials estimates enrollment of about 248,700 students in 2022-23, which would be a 4 percent drop from the previous school year and a 31 percent decrease from 2017.

Federal and Puerto Rico officials work to build a trusting relationship

While the federal funding will help Puerto Rico continue its recovery from natural disasters and the pandemic, it also signifies the U.S. Education Department’s commitment to building trust and better relationships with the territory, Cardona said in a statement.

“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,” he said. “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.”

Cardona—who has Puerto Rican heritage—has made it clear that Puerto Rico is a priority for the department since he started in the Biden administration, declaring “it’s going to be a new day for Puerto Rico,” in a 2021 interview with Education Week. Under his leadership, the department established the Puerto Rico Education Sustainability Team to focus on improving oversight of federal funds for the territory’s education systems.

The federal department, meanwhile, will conduct formal listening sessions with students, parents, educators, and stakeholders across the island. The department plans to use the listening sessions to develop a memorandum of understanding that will “ensure that transparency remains at the forefront of the collaboration between the departments,” according to the release.

In total, the federal Education Department has released nearly $6 billion to support Puerto Rican schools in the last two years, including $2.9 billion in American Rescue Plan funds, $1.9 billion in other coronavirus relief funds, and $1 billion in program grants for Fiscal 2021 and 2022, according to the news release.

Ramos Parés in a statement acknowleged the assistance as “we continue to face the infrastructure challenges of our campuses, managing the distribution of the federal funds and guaranteeing their proper use.”


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Early Childhood Webinar
How the Science of Reading Elevates Our Early Learners to Success
From the creators of ABCmouse, learn how a solution grounded in the science of reading can prepare our youngest learners for kindergarten.
Content provided by Age of Learning
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
English-Language Learners Webinar
Classroom Strategies for Building EL Students’ Confidence and Success
Fueling success for EL students who are learning new concepts while navigating an unfamiliar language. Join the national discussion of strategies and Q&A.
Content provided by Project Lead The Way
Future of Work Live Online Discussion Seat at the Table: Understanding the Critical Link Between Student Mental Health and the Future of Work
In recent months, there’s been a rallying cry against the teaching of social-emotional skills. Discover why students need these skills now more than ever.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Funding In Their Own Words This Superintendent's Tiny, Rural District Got No COVID Aid. Here's Why That Hurts
The aid formula left Long Lake, N.Y., out of the mix. The superintendent worries that could happen for other kinds of aid in the future.
3 min read
Long Lake Superintendent Noelle Short in front of Long Lake Central School in Long Lake, N.Y., on Sept. 1, 2022.
Noelle Short is the superintendent of a single-school district in upstate New York with fewer than 100 students.
Heather Ainsworth for Education Week
Education Funding Grants Aim to Support Alaska Native Students' Education, Well-Being
The U.S. Department of Education is providing more than $35 million for projects in its latest round of funding.
2 min read
The East Anchorage High and Scammon Bay students gather at a home in the Native Village to learn how to comb fur from a musk ox hide using special combs and common forks. The fur can later be spun into yarn.
Students from East Anchorage High School and Scammon Bay, Alaska, gather to learn how to comb fur from a musk ox hide through a federally funded cultural and educational program for Alaska Native students.
Erin Irwin/Education Week
Education Funding District Leaders Plea to Feds: We Need More Time to Spend COVID Aid
Without more flexibility on the 2024 spending deadline, critical programs will be axed, they warn.
5 min read
Image of money and a timer.
Education Funding Biden Administration Outlines How School Districts Should Spend COVID Aid
White House back-to-school checklist encourages school districts to involve parents in spending decisions.
5 min read
Angela Pike watches her fourth grade students at Lakewood Elementary School in Cecilia, Ky., as they use their laptops to participate in an emotional check-in at the start of the school day, Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022. The rural Kentucky school is one of thousands across the country using the technology to screen students' state of mind and alert teachers to anyone struggling.
Angela Pike watches her 4th-grade students at Lakewood Elementary School in Cecilia, Ky., as they use their laptops on Aug. 11 to participate in an emotional check-in at the start of the school day. The Biden administration recommended that schools use COVID-19 relief funds to support student mental health.
Timothy D. Easley/AP