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Puerto Rico - Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferencePuerto Rico - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education


Administration: The Puerto Rican Department of Education (Departamento de Educación, formerly the Departamento de Instrucción) is by the Organic Law of 1990 (Law 68) charged with the responsibility for all schooling on the island, from preschool to university; it is headed by a cabinet-level secretary and an undersecretary—both political appointments made by the island governor and subject to the advice and consent of the Senate. The secretary reports to the governor and, on occasion, to relevant committees of the Puerto Rican legislature. The Departmental Secretary is assisted by the two aforementioned Councils (on Higher Education and on General Education), as well as by various offices in charge of vocational and technical training, relations with the community, finance, extension/long distance learning, and the like.

Puerto Rico is divided into various school regions (whose number varies from time to time according to movements of population); each region is assigned personnel charged with revising and/or designing curricula (in conjunction with teachers). Meanwhile the administration of schools falls under the purview of the district. Each district is directed by a superintendent (aided by an assistant superintendent) and other officials. The principal of each school within a given district must report to the superintendent's office. The individual school is headed by a director and a sub-director, or principal and assistant principal; he or she is aided by the teachers, a social worker, a person responsible for orientation (orientadora), and food service and custodial personnel. The shortage of candidates willing to take on the responsibilities of the school principal has reached critical proportion in recent years.

Finance: The public educational system is virtually entirely financed by the island government; its funding is dependent on yearly budgets voted by the legislature. As noted above, the amount set aside by law for the University of Puerto Rico system equals 9.65 percent of the total revenues accruing to the State; meanwhile López Yustos [1999] estimates that the cost per pupil in the public schools was about $2,000 in 1990 (i.e., if this is so, and basing the calculation on official enrollment figures, the total amounts to about one and a quarter billion dollars for the primary, intermediate, and senior high schools alone). This figure does not count students in institutions of higher learning or in such special programs as long distance learning. Puerto Rico allocates about 30 percent of its total annual revenues to the Department of Education, the most expensive of all government agencies and the country's largest employer.

However, the figures just given are very approximate; what they mean is extremely difficult, perhaps impossible, to determine with real precision. For some analysts they bespeak the people's faith in education, while at the same time that they are often cited by critics of the system who point out the mixed results achieved by these expenditures. It seems certain, however, that education is closely identified with the material progress achieved over the past half-century by the Estado Libre Asociado.

The University of Puerto Rico system (with a 1994 total budget of $622,300,000) received 68 percent of that figure from state funding, 17.5 percent from federal contracts and institutional grants, and 8 percent from student and tuition fees.

Perhaps due to the Commonwealth's mistrust of the private sector, contributions to private schools and institutions of higher learning are not tax deductible. This has surely done much to limit fund-raising on the part of these entities in Puerto Rico and to the establishment of significant endowments. The major exception to this rule has been the Universidad Católica (Ponce), which has benefited handsomely from private donations.

Federal funding also enters into the picture. The above-mentioned Pell Tuition Grant program is indispensable to the survival of private-sector institutions of higher learning. To take an example, the eligibility of 90 percent of the 8,000 students at the Universidad del Turabo brings into the university's annual operating budget a sum located between 17 and 18 million dollars. Few students could afford to study without this aid, and without such students and the university would close its doors. Certain capital expenses are also met with the help of Federal funding, especially such expenses as result from Federally-mandated requirements. Finally, Federal funding, e.g., the N.S.F., N.E.A., N.I.H., and N.E.H., is of great importance for scientific, social scientific, and humanities research—especially the first of these three. It has proved impossible to put a dollar figure on totals regarding Federal educational support, but the sums involved are surely impressive.

Educational Research: Research dealing with education is an important industry in Puerto Rico. Most of it is social scientific, statistics-based in nature and has to do with remedying perceived deficiencies of various kinds and/or planning. Considerable attention is paid to historical matters, some to historico-political aspects (e.g., Negrón de Montilla 1971), but much more has to do with reform and what ought to be done.

The Department of Education sponsors studies of many kinds and publishes statistics. This research is accomplished mainly on behalf of its own planning programs and also for various governmental purposes (e.g., budget). A departmental division—that of planning and educational development—is more or less in charge of these kinds of research. The Department also maintains an important documentary library for research and consulting purposes.

The island's various Schools of Education also constitute a source of research on educational matters, as does the work accomplished by Puerto Rican candidates for advanced degrees in education in many United States graduate schools.

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