Teachers in Puerto Rico are continuing their campaign  to defend public education tomorrow, December 18th, when schools will be picketed. The FMPR teachers' union has asked members to be vigilant and be ready to take action even over the Christmas period, which is an important festival in Puerto Rico. The FMPR has not ruled out strike action, in its ongoing campaign - last month there was another mass demonstration by teachers.

The union accuses the government of failing to negotiate with them, but instead taking instruction from the private Moodys Rating Agency, which has told the government it needs to cut public spending, if its credit rating is not to be depressed.

The focus of the fight in Puerto Rico is the privatisation of the teachers' pension scheme. However the union has made it clear that this is part of a much larger fight against the privatisation of education. The President of FMPR, Rafael Feliciano, said, "There is an effort on the part of the government to dismantle the public school (system) and discredit it." He said that the law to balance the budget was designed to dismiss public employees in order to hand public services over to the private sector. Already there is a serious shortage of teachers in the territory, especially for children with special needs, 45,000 of whom have no specialist teachers, said Feliciano.

Puerto Rico is an archipelago of Caribbean islands, which was colonised by the US and is still a territory of the US, despite the desire of its inhabitants, expressed in a plebiscite to be an independent state. The connection to the US has had the effect of increasing the pressure of neo-liberal reform on education, while at the same time teachers receive much lower salaries than the average for teachers in the US. 

The privatisation moves could see teachers' pensions being cut by as much as 50%, which will leave many retired teachers destitute, according to the FMPR.