Private School Regulation

Puerto Rico

Registration/Licensing/Accreditation: Under the Organic Act of the Department of Education of 1990, the General Council of Education has the power to issue licenses and authorize the establishment and operation of elementary and secondary educational institutions and to accredit public and private schools. Accreditation by the General Council on Education is optional for private schools. 1990 P.R. Laws 68 § 5, 6.

Licensing standards include the following minimum requirements: 1) a permit for use of the physical plant; 2) faculty with the necessary educational preparation and experience; 3) facilities, equipment, library and laboratory services in the proportion compatible with the objectives and nature of the institution; 4) an educational plan and the ways and means to implement it; 5) permits to protect the health and safety of the students; 6) an economic viability study; 7) a copy of the institutional regulations regarding academic matters, student affairs, administrative and fiscal matters; and, 8) address information for the institution, Board of Directors and chief officials.

Accredited elementary and secondary private schools must meet public education minimum requirements for academic work, administrative procedures, and physical plant and school equipment facilities. P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 18, § 57.

Licensing is compulsory for all private educational institutions at the elementary and secondary levels. Minimum requirements for licensing include: 1) teacher certification or provisional certification issued by the Secretary; 2) facilities, equipment, library and laboratory services compatible with the school's objectives; 3) an educational plan and the means to implement the plan; and, 4) an economic viability study that shows the institution can reasonably comply with its commitments. Licenses must be renewed every four years. Schools submitting evidence of accreditation will have their licenses automatically renewed. P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 18, §§ 2111, 2113, 2119, 2120.

Recordkeeping/Reports: The principal/teacher of a private school must report the names of students under 16 who are absent for a week of school for employment purposes to the Secretary of Labor and Human Resources. P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 29, § 452. The General Council on Education may waive the responsibility to keep minors under 18 in school if parents present proof that their children are currently employed or studying in a recognized educational institution. P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 3, § 397 F(19).

Length of School Year/Day: Puerto Rico's compulsory school attendance law requires private school students to regularly attend school during the period of each year the public schools are in session, on the customary days and during the regular hours of the school term. P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 29, § 450.

Teacher Certification: Teachers in accredited private schools must hold a current teacher's certificate appertaining to their position. P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 18, § 266. Teachers in licensed private schools must hold a current teacher's certificate or obtain a provisional certificate from the Secretary of Education. Provisional certificates may be issued if the school shows the faculty member has the necessary academic degree or proper professional experience compatible with the practice and standards prevailing in the academic community, or holds a Master's degree, or PhD. in the academic field. P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 18, § 2113(b).

Curriculum: Accredited elementary and secondary private schools must meet public education minimum requirements for academic work. P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 18, § 57.

Special Education: The Secretary of Social Services is empowered to contract with private schools for the care and teaching of deaf-mute children provided the school can serve a minimum of 60 students. P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 18, § 1043.

Health: Students are required to have the proper immunizations in order to be admitted or enrolled in school. P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 24, § 182 et seq.

Safety: Puerto Rico imposes a fixed term of 15 years imprisonment for burglary when committed in any private, elementary, junior, or senior high school. P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 33, § 4277.

Any person who knowingly and intentionally distributes or possesses a controlled substance in a private school or in its surroundings is guilty of a felony and will be punished twice the penalties for a first offense, and three times the penalties for subsequent offenses. P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 24, § 2411a.

The Secretary of the Treasury may deny a license to sell alcoholic beverages at retail from premises less than 25 meters from a private school. P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 13, § 6080.

Establishments providing access to coin- or token-operated electronic games, pinball machines, or lotteries may not be located within 200 meters from a private school. P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 15, §§ 701; 809.

Any person who enters the building or grounds of an elementary, junior or senior high school without permission of the Director or person in charge, his substitute, or official or employee of a higher rank, or who remains within said institution after being ordered to leave, shall incur in a misdemeanor. P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 33, §§ 2091.

Home Schooling: There is no legislation in Puerto Rico regarding home schooling.

Public Aid for Private Schools/Private School Students: Puerto Rico's Constitution prohibits the appropriation of public funds for schools other than Commonwealth schools; but, the Constitution expressly provides that this mandate does not prevent the Commonwealth from extending noneducational services for the protection or welfare of children. Puerto Rico Const. Art. II, 5. P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 18, § 3.

Puerto Rico statutory law ensures that no person can be required to support any ministry, religious sect or denomination against his consent. P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 1, § 9.

Teachers and pupils of private schools may buy at cost any teaching materials produced by the Department of Education. P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 18, § 48.

Miscellaneous: Private school teachers and support staff, including parochial school teachers and support staff, are protected by Puerto Rico's minimum wage provision. P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 29, § 245; Luis Cardenal Aponte Martinez, et al v. Miguel Guardiola and Ferdinand Ferrer, et al., 628 F. Supp. 1173 (D.C.P.R. 1985).

An attempt to inspect a Catholic school's internal records by the Puerto Rico Department of Consumer Affairs was found unconstitutional. In an effort to restrain inflationary trends and establish price controls, the Department sought to review annual budgets, sources of finances, costs of transportation, etc. The First Circuit declared the practice an impermissible burden on the free exercise of religion and threat of entanglement between the affairs of church and state. Bishop Ricardo Surinach etc,. et al., v. Carmen T. Pesquera de Busquets, 604 F.2d 73 (1st. Cir. 1979).

The Department of Education is directed to coordinate with private schools in its plans to celebrate "Renowned Puerto Rican Statesmen's Day" on April 18th of each year. P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 1, § 150j.

The Secretary of the Treasury is authorized to distribute copies of existing consumer protection legislation and regulations, free of charge, to private schools. P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 3, § 341e.

Use of a loudspeaker near a private school during school hours in a manner that disturbs the normal functioning of the school is a misdemeanor. P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 18, § 128.

Accredited private schools may serve as practice centers for students serving internships prior to certification. P.R. Laws Ann. tit. 18, §§ 471, 472.



Source: U.S. Department of Education, 1999 - This information is presented for research use only and should not be construed as legal advice.  Please consult an attorney for further information.