Section 11

Collaboration: War Against Our Schools

Puerto Rico Syllabus & Defend Puerto Rico

Image Credit: Claudia Santos Suárez; still from War Against Our Schools

Education Privatization and School Rescues in Puerto Rico: A Microsyllabus for War Against Our Schools (2021)


As part of a collaboration between the Puerto Rico Syllabus and Defend Puerto Rico, this Microsyllabus accompanies the documentary film, War Against Our Schools (2021) and provides viewers with several entry points to further explore and historicize the film’s central themes. 

Public education in Puerto Rico has been a key target of austerity governance over the past two decades, often legitimized through narratives of “school choice” and “consolidation.” The most recent waves of school closures coincided with the passage of an education reform bill just months after Hurricane Maria, which facilitated public to private transfers through vouchers and charter schools. As War Against Our Schools  demonstrates, school closures do more than empty buildings and relocate students. Rather, school closures tear apart the social fabric and disrupt the lives of families, communities, and teachers. Additionally, the communities most affected by school closures are those that have historically experienced deep state disinvestment as a result of race, class, and/or residential marginalization. School closures make already vulnerable communities even more so, while sowing the seeds for greater precarity in the future. 

Drawing on a long history of rescates in Puerto Rico, impacted communities have taken up school rescues to contest these processes and build alternatives through mutual aid. Education privatization and resistance efforts are not unique to Puerto Rico, but resonate with larger patterns of racial capitalism, displacement, and dispossession throughout the United States in places such as New Orleans, Chicago, and Detroit. We offer this microsyllabus and larger viewing guide in the hopes that the powerful examples of community control and empowerment highlighted in War Against Our Schools can inspire transformation and forge networks of solidarity necessary to defend public education.

To see the full Viewing Guide which accompanies the film visit:

PROMESA and the Debt Crisis

Deepak Lamba-Nieves, Sergio M. Marxuach, and Rosanna Torres, “PROMESA: A Failed Colonial Experiment?” CNE, June 29, 2021

Center for Popular Democracy and ACRE, “PROMESA Has Failed: How a Colonial Board Is Enriching Wall Street and Hurting Puerto Ricans,” September 14, 2021.

Ed Morales, “The Technocratic Takeover,” Jacobin, September 13, 2016

VIDEO: The People’s Forum NYC, “Se Acabaron Las Promesas: The Movement for Puerto Rico’s Independence,” YouTube.

School Closures in Puerto Rico

Jennifer Hinojosa, Edwin Meléndez, and Kathya Severino Pietri, “Population Decline and School Closures in Puerto Rico,” The Center for Puerto Rican Studies, 2019.

Dalia Rubiano Yedidia, Eli Moore, EJ Toppin, Ake Ake, Luis Gallardo Rivera, Marina Moscoso Arabía, and Grace Fontánez Valle, “Puerto Rico’s Public School Closures; Community Effects and Future Paths,” Othering & Belonging Institute and Centro para la Reconstrucción del Hábitat, 2020. 

Frances Robles, “Puerto Rico’s Debt Crisis Claims Another Casualty: Its Schools,” New York Times, May 10, 2017.

Charter Schools and Privatization Efforts in Puerto Rico

Similar Case Examples: New Orleans, Chicago, Detroit

Kevin Lawrence Henry, Jr., “‘The Price of Disaster’: The Charter School Authorization Process in Post-Katrina New Orleans,” Educational Policy 35 (2): 235–58, 2021.

Kristen L. Buras, “‘We’re not going nowhere’: race, urban space, and the struggle for King Elementary School in New Orleans,” Critical Studies in Education, 54:1, 19-32, 2013.

Lessons from New Orleans: Peter Brogan Interviews Kristen Buras,” Against the Current, 2017.

PODCAST: “Lessons from our Country’s Largest School Closing w/ Eve L Ewing (Ep. 20),” Big Brains, March 4, 2019.

Allie Gross, “School Choice Gutted Detroit’s Public Schools. The Rest of the Country is Next,” Vice, December 19, 2016.

Mark Binelli, “Michigan Gambled on Charter Schools. Its Children Lost,” New York Times, September 10, 2017.

Apoyo Mutuo (Mutual Aid)

Dean Spade, Ayuda Mutua: Construyendo solidaridad durante esta crisis (y la próxima), Verso, 2020. 

Giovanni Roberto, “Sin Perdón y Sin Permiso.” 80 Grados, December 1, 2017. 

Isa Rodríguez Soto, “Mutual Aid and Survival as Resistance in Puerto Rico,” NACLA Report on the Americas 52 (3): 303–8., 2020.

MAP: Jacqueline Villarubia Mendoza and Roberto Vélez-Vélez, Visualizando el Apoyo Mutuo,” 2020.

Jacqueline Villarrubia-Mendoza and Roberto Vélez-Vélez,. “Centros de Apoyo Mutuo: Reconfigurando La Asistencia En Tiempos de DesastreCentro Journal xxxii (iii), 2020.

History of Rescates

Liliana Cotto Morales, Desalambrar: Orígenes de Los Rescates de Terreno En Puerto Rico y Su Pertinencia En Los Movimientos Sociales Contempóraneos, Editorial Tal Cual, 2011.

DOCUMENTARY FILM TRAILER: Desalambrando, 2019. 

Érika Fontánez Torres, “Frente al Vacío, a Rescatar El Futuro.” 80 Grados. September 13, 2017. 

Natasha Khan, “Dominican Immigrants Fight for Land Rights in Puerto Rico,” Puerto Rico Unsettled Territory, October 29, 2012.

Invasiones de terrenos son comunes en Puerto Rico,” Primera Hora, August 7, 2009.

School Rescue Movement in Puerto Rico

Denis Márquez, “Rescates de solidaridad.” Metro, September 13, 2019. 

Paola Torres, “Al rescate del olvido,” Tinta Digital, December 4, 2019.

Yaritza Rivera Clemente, “Reabren escuelas para el servicio de la comunidad,” El Vocero, November 3, 2019. 

Keila López Alicea, “Al rescate de la escuela,” El Nuevo Día, June 16, 2018.

FACEBOOK LIVE DIALOGUE: Colectivo Ilé, “Junte de Saber Antiracista: PATBA,” July 28, 2020.

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