Exploiting An Opportunity

When New Haven joined a rush of teacher-poachers into Puerto Rico, was it promoting a win-win solution to islanders’ woes? Or taking advantage of their situation?

News pundits batted that question around on the latest edition of WNHH radio’s “Pundit Friday” program.

They addressed the decision by budget-strapped New Haven schools to send three recruiters to Puerto Rico to seek needed bilingual teachers — with the hopes that they will no longer have to pay a premium to fill the hard-to-find position. (Click here to read an article about that.) Puerto Rico, which has declared bankruptcy, has closed 184 schools and its pension fund is in dire trouble. So cities across the country have been sending recruiters for bilingual teachers; 200 Puerto Rican-based teachers ended up paying the $50 fee to apply for the New Haven openings.

In the past, bilingual teachers have been able to command above-average salaries because of the shortage of qualified applicants. But now cities should be able to lure them at standard pay.

Given that these are union jobs, is that still a win-win for both New Haven (given its budget challenges) and the Puerto Rican-based teachers (given their declining job prospects)?

Not so simple, argued WNHH Station Manager Harry Droz, La Voz Hispana Publisher Norma Rodriguez-Reyes, Inner-City News and WNHH daily program host Babz Rawls-Ivy, and Independent reporter Markeshia Ricks.

“Puerto Rico’s been exploited forever,” argued Droz. “Puerto Rico’s story is the Native American story” of murder and exploitation.  This is the latest chapter, he and Rodriguez-Reyes argued.

Mainland recruiters are “exploiting the fact that they’re closing schools,” Ricks continued. She and Rawls-Ivy said that a better solution would be to help Puerto Rico tackle its financial woes so that teachers have the choice between a good job where they’re currently living and pursuing new opportunities elsewhere.

Click on or download the above audio to hear the full episode of WNHH radio’s “Pundit Friday,” which also tackled public-comment chaos at the Board of Education as well as the games that black girls play.

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posted by: jepadilla on June 16, 2017  2:46pm

Unfortunately this issue is not so cut and dry.  Teachers in Puerto Rico have never been well paid—even in the boom times.  I have family and friends that were teachers in Puerto Rico and came to the states to take teaching positions over ten years ago, and each of them literally quadrupled their salaries compared to what they earned in PR.  I have an aunt who at one time in her career was the equivalent of Deputy Superintendent for a school region in PR.  When she came to NYC, she took a job as a speech therapist in the schools and quintupled her salary.  Teachers have never been compensated in a manner that suggests their position is respected, which is why those that can (are bilingual) leave when they can.  The current economic crisis is exacerbating the situation, but even among the 184 schools closed, many of them are smaller schools outside the towns where the municipality can no longer afford to operate a school with 75 students, compared to the one in the town/city that houses 750.  Believe it or not, they cost about the same to operate!

Our commentators are correct that “Puerto Rico has been exploited forever”.  Unfortunately, the people doing the exploiting is the political class which has stolen, corrupted and mismanaged the island’s economy to its present dismal state.  Like I said, not a cut and dry solution to a complex probllm.

posted by: 1644 on June 16, 2017  3:46pm

What a silly question.  Of course, New Haven is hoping to take advantage of Puerto Rico’s depression.  Given that, in taking advantage, New Haven provides opportunity and a ticket out for several Puerto Ricans, New Haven’s opportunism would be a very good thing for any Puerto Rican teachers who might be hired. 
As far as exploitation, Puerto Ricans have had many opportunities for independence.  The vast majority has always opposed independence.  BTW, the indigenous population of Puerto Rico is largely extinct, the present population being predominately, genetically European and African.

posted by: 1644 on June 16, 2017  9:14pm

1644:  On Hawai’i, the best farmland was owned by families descended from New England missionaries, whose sons often married Hawaiian royals.  Post-war economic and population growth, as well as high labor costs, not “exploitation”, have made agriculture a poor economic proposition in Hawai’i, just as it is here. 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Five_(Hawaii).
Pre-annexation, the big agricultural firms brought waves of workers from Japan, China, and the Philippines to work the fields as, essentially, indentured servants.  Post annexation, the laborers had more civil rights, although they were still economically subservient.