Education Policy

186 Organizations Issue Letter Calling for Hearings on the Educational Needs of Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands

IDRA is one of 186 organizations called for congressional hearings on the educational needs of Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. See the letter below or see the pdf version.

January 23, 2018

Dear Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray,

Front page of letter calling for hearingsThe undersigned organizations strongly support the bipartisan request for the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to hold hearings to assess and address the ongoing education and health crisis in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands from the destructive hurricanes Irma and Maria.

It has been well over 100 days since the hurricanes made landfall, and American citizens are still struggling to regain basic living essentials. While some progress has been made, the U.S. territories are not only in recovery mode, their citizens are fighting to survive.

As we all witnessed in September, the U.S. Virgin Islands were hit with two Category 5 hurricanes over 12 days, with the second hurricane also making landfall as a Category 4 in Puerto Rico. Families still live in destroyed homes with blue tarps as partial, temporary roofing, while others are living in shelters and many have left the islands for the mainland. In Puerto Rico, schools and an unknown number of businesses are still closed, hospitals are still not fully functioning, and there are still long lines for water and ice (ref). At the end of 2017, Gov. Ricardo Rossello stated that more than 660,000 Puerto Ricans were living without power, which is estimated to be 45 percent of the island’s 1.5 million electricity customers. Based on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates, full power restoration for Puerto Rico could take until May, right before the hurricane season of 2018 is set to begin (ref). In the U.S. Virgin Islands, it is estimated that half the electric customers remain without power, about one-quarter of the territory is without cell phone service, and thousands of homes, businesses and other buildings were damaged or destroyed (ref).

Progress toward recovery for health and education systems is slow-moving, especially without the basic infrastructure of safe water and electricity, without access to food and safe housing, and with hazards such as long-standing water, diseases and infections. Some groups, such as individuals with disabilities, are especially vulnerable. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, nine schools were completely destroyed. Due to the significant damage to the hospitals, all patients are still being medevacked to the mainland (ref). Puerto Rico has reopened 1,100 of the nearly 1,200 schools, with 38 being closed for structural damage, serving approximately 331,000 students. Many of these schools opened without access to power (ref). Higher education institutions on the islands are similarly struggling to recover and serve students. Puerto Rico’s largest hospital only has one of the five floors operational due to damage. As the process continues at its slow pace, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are losing medical personnel, educators and families from the territories.

A focus of 2018 needs to be about rebuilding Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, but we need to ensure the Americans living there are safe and have the resources for basic living essentials. Families, individuals and businesses want to begin to be able to rebuild, have a safe home, go to work and school, and have access to safe drinking water and a doctor when they become ill. The Americans of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands desperately need help, and having access to public education and healthcare is essential to the recovery.

We ask for your committee to begin hearings on these issues immediately so that the full range of needs can be met for every U.S. citizen affected by hurricanes Irma and Maria. Thank you for your consideration of this request.



Action Ridge


AIDS United

All God’s Children Metropolitan Community Church

Alliance for Excellent Education

Alliance for Retired Americans

Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU)

American Association of People with Disabilities

American Federation of School Administrators

American Federation of Teachers

American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee

Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO

Asociacion de Maestros de Puerto Rico (AMPR)

ASPIRA Association

Association of Flight Attendants – CWA

Association of University Centers on Disabilities


Augustana Lutheran Church of Hyde Park

Augustus F. Hawkins Foundation

Autistic Self Advocacy Network

Benedictine Sisters of Baltimore

Benedictine Sisters of Chicago

Benedictine Sisters of Virginia

Berkeley Friends Church

Boricua Vota

Carter-McGowan Services, LLC

Catholic Charities of Buffalo

Catholic Charities of Chicago

Center for American Progress

Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP)

Center for Popular Democracy

Chicago Teachers Union

Citizens Education Project

Coalition on Human Needs


Coastal Bend Center for Independent Living

Collaborative Center for Justice

Communications Workers of America (CWA)

Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley

Community Resource Exchange

CWA Local 1082

D.C. Hunger Solutions

Dedham Junior Women’s Club

Delaware Ecumenical Council on Children and Families


Democrats for Education Reform

Department for Professional Employees, AFL-CIO

Doctors for America

Dominican Sisters ~ Grand Rapids


Ebenezer Baptist Church

EDGE Consulting LLC

Education Law Center

Education Rights Network

Emmanuel United Presbyterian Church

Erie Benedictines for Peace

Faith Organizing Alliance

Families USA

Florida Alliance of CDCs

Food For All

Franciscan Sisters of the Poor

Friends of the Earth

Frontier Nursing University

Gamaliel Network

Generation Progress

Global Alliance Interfaith Networks

Global Justice Institute


Grace Lutheran Church

Grand St Settlement

Greater Miami Service Corps

Greater New York Labor Religion Coalition

Hawaii Public Charter Schools Network


Hedge Clippers

Hip Hop Caucus

Hispanic Alliance, inc.

Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU)

Hispanic Federation

Illinois Association of Multilingual Multicultural Education

Iniciativa Acción Puertorriqueña

Integrated Community Solutions

Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA)

International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers

International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers (IFPTE)

Journey for Justice Alliance

Justice in Aging

Justice Now!



League of United Latin American Citizens

Learning Forward


Make the Road CT


Maritime Trades Department, AFL-CIO

Maryland United for Peace and Justice


Metropolitan Community Churches

Mi Familia Vota

MICAH- Metropolitan Interfaith Council on Affordable Housing

Michigan Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Network


Morgan State University

Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Church

Musikanten Montana


NAACP Lake-Newaygo Branch 3144


National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE)

National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE)

National Alliance of Black School Educators (NABSE)

National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO)

National Association for Multicultural Education

National Association of Bilingual Education

National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities

National Association of Secondary School Principals

National Association of Social Workers

National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE)

National Black Justice Coalition

National Center for Learning Disabilities

National Center for Lesbian Rights

National Consumer Law Center

National Council for Languages and International Studies

National Council of Gray Panthers Networks

National Council of Jewish Women

National Domestic Violence Hotline

National Education Association

National Federation of Federal Employees

National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators

National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts

National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health

National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund

National Migrant Seasonal Head Start Association (NMSHSA)

National Network to End Domestic Violence

National Organization for Women

National PTA

National Puerto Rican Agenda

National School Boards Association

National Urban League

National WIC Association

New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies, Inc.

New York Communities for Change

Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity


Our Spring Lake Store LLC


Peace X Peace Women’s Group

Pennsylvania Council of Churches

Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network


PHENOM (Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts)


Pittsburgh LCLAA

Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Population Connection Action Fund

Pride at Work

Public Health

Public Justice Center

Puerto Rico Equality Forum

Puerto Rico Institute on Developmental Disabilities (PR-UCEDD)

Schott Foundation

Seafarers International Union

Service Employees International Union

Sisters of Mercy

Sisters of Mercy West Midwest Community Justice Team

Sisters of St Francis

Sisters of St. Dominic of Blauvelt, NY

Sisters of St. Joseph

SocioEnergetics Foundation


Teaching for Change

The Allin Congregational Church, UCC

The Arc of the United States

The Badass Teachers Association, Inc.

The Bingham Program

The Joint National Committee for Languages

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

Toledo Area Jobs with Justice & Interfaith Worker Justice Coalition

Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO

UnidosUS (formerly NCLR)

Unitarian Universalist Escalating Economic Inequality Task Force – Southeast Michigan

United States Hispanic Leadership Institute

Wisconsin Council of Churches

YWCA Alliance