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Puerto Rico's High Court Clears Way for Vouchers, Charter Schools

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Puerto Rico's Supreme Court has dismissed a legal challenge to the U.S. territory's plans to allow charter schools and vouchers, spelling a potential end to one of the biggest controversies about the island's education system since two major hurricanes hit the island last year. 

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Earlier this year, the island's government approved a plan to create "alianza" schools, which are intended to be like charter schools, as well as a "free school" selection program similar to vouchers. The legislation creating both, signed by Puerto Rico's governor and backed by Secretary of Education Julia Keleher, would create restraints on both programs: In the first year of the voucher-like program, for example, the number of students would be capped at 3 percent of total student enrollment, and then at 5 percent in the second year. Keleher said the programs would help the island's educational system better meet students' needs and help transform a long-struggling system.

However, the Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico, the island's teachers' union that represents nearly 30,000 active teachers, sued to stop the vouchers and charters in April. The union, which is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, argued among other things that charter schools would run afoul of Puerto Rico's Constitution because ultimately they would be controlled by private interests. 

In a statement quoted by Primera Hora newspaper in Puerto Rico, Keleher said she was pleased with the ruling and said that "there are dozens of entities highly interested" in helping vouchers and charters get off the ground. 

The union has fought Keleher over several other issues, including the closure of more than 260 schools over the summer. That move to close schools . 

The start of the school year in Puerto Rico is Aug. 13. 

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