If you are one of those folks who last watched John Oliver when he took on standardized testing and haven't really checked back since because his other topics didn't grab you, it's time to check in again. (Note: if you are the reader who is also my mom, I should warn you that some of the language is rather uncouth.)
The Puerto Rican debt crisis has been brewing for a while, and it may not matter that much to you (though it should, because these are fellow Americans who are getting cut off at the knees). But if most of your focus is on the education debates, here's what you need to know about the debt crisis in Puerto Rico.
1) A huge amount of the debt is now owned by hedge funds.
2) Hedge funders are putting their own bottom line ahead of everything, including education and health care.
Imagine. Your neighbor borrows some money from you, and after making some payments on it, says, "I've hit a rough patch, and if I pay you off, I won't be able to pay the rent or buy food for my family this month. Plus, a tree limb fell on my roof last week and if we can't work something out, my whole roof is going to cave in, which is going to be bad for me and for the whole neighborhood. Can we work out a new deal somehow?"
Do you say, "Don't care. Just pay me now." Well, if you're a hedge fund, you do.
You may try to hide that message behind some baloney-filled PR. You may try to spin it as a "way forward," as did the hedge funders who proposed a "Better Way" for Puerto Rico that included recommendations like raising property taxes, firing teachers, and cutting Medicaid. As long as they get their money.
It's vulture capitalism, the same hedge fund money-grabbing that drives much of the charter and school policy arguments raging here on the mainland. When these folks start talking about how to "fix" education, it's important to remember Puerto Rico, where they are showing clearly what they value most.