Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Families in Puerto Rico

The Supreme Court in Puerto Rico dismissed a challenge to the new educational choice law passed earlier this year. The American Federation for Children, the nation’s voice for educational choice, released the following statement.

Statement from John Schilling, President of the American Federation for Children:

“Once again, courts have upheld the constitutionality of laws passed to give families more options when it comes to their child’s K-12 education. Responding to the horrific hurricane that devastated Puerto Rico, Governor Rosselló and Secretary Keleher took bold steps to provide new educational opportunities for families by allowing them to access new charter schools and existing private schools. As those leaders continue to transform and improve education for all children across the island, we’re very pleased to see that teachers’ union-backed lawsuits aimed at restricting educational choices for families and students have once again failed in the courts.”

Details provided by the Institute for Justice:

  • Last night, the Puerto Rico Supreme Court rejected a teachers union’s challenge to the Free School Selection Program, and declared the program constitutional.
  • As a result, up to 10,000 Puerto Rican families will be able to apply for government scholarships to send their children to the private or public schools of their choice. Scholarships will be available for the 2019–2020 school year.
  • The Free School Selection Program was signed into law in March 2018. The program prioritizes students who are low income, disabled, adopted or in foster homes, victims of bullying or sexual harassment, gifted or falling behind in their education. Any student who has been enrolled in a public school for more than two years is eligible.
  • Immediately after the program was passed, however, it was challenged in court by a teachers’ union, the Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico. The union argued that the program “supported” private schools in violation of the Puerto Rico Constitution’s “Support Clause.” This clause was the reason the Puerto Rican Supreme Court had invalidated a similar program in 1994.
  • In upholding the program, the Court agreed with the families that the Free School Selection Program is constitutional because it ‘supports’ needy families, not schools, and any benefit to private schools under the program is merely incidental.
  • There was also a charter school element which the Court upheld, and charter school enrollment begins this Fall.