The U.S. territory Puerto Rico is expected to shut down nearly 200 public schools in a sweeping effort to save more than $7 million amid an uncontrollable economic crisis that has plagued the mainland in recent years, according to the Associated Press. The move is expected to affect about 27,000 students, who will be relocated to other schools at the beginning of next year.
"We have a fiscal crisis and few resources and we've spent 10 years handing out nearly $3 billion in a system that hardly has any books," said Education Secretary Julia Keleher. "We cannot keep doing what we're doing because we don't have the resources."
News of the public school closures come days after Puerto Rico filed what is essentially the equivalent of bankruptcy relief in federal court--the first time in history that an American territory or state had taken the measure, the New York Times reported.
The changes in the school system are intensifying fears that it could speed up the ongoing exodus from Puerto Rico. About 450,000 people over the past decade have left for Florida and other parts of the U.S. mainland to flee the economic crisis.
The school shutdown will be the largest in the island's history. Officials claimed it will lead to millions of dollars in savings for an education department that represent nearly 30 percent of Puerto Rico's $9 million budget. In the past five years, officials shut down more than 150 schools.