Mexican Senate passes major education reform
By Michael Weissenstein, APMEXICO CITY — Mexico's Senate overwhelmingly passed a sweeping reform of the notoriously dysfunctional public school system early Wednesday, handing President Enrique Pena Nieto an important victory in his push to remake some of his country's worst-run institutions.
September 5, 2013, 2:14 pm TWN
The Senate voted 102-22 in favor of a standardized system of test-based hiring and promotion that would give the government the tools to break teachers unions' near-total control of school staffing.
That control includes the corrupt sale and inheritance of teaching jobs, and it has been widely blamed for much of the poor performance of Mexican schools, which have higher relative costs and worse results than any other in the 34-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
"The inheritance and sale of jobs has ended," Education Secretary Emilio Chuayffet said on Twitter. "Merit is the ideal means of access to, and progress in, a teaching career."
The late-night vote clears a path for Pena Nieto to move forward with a series of even more controversial reforms, including a measure that would violate one of modern Mexico's longest-standing taboos by allowing private investment in the state-run oil company.
But there is potential trouble ahead.
Education advocates say a series of concessions to the smaller of the two main teachers unions undermined the reform's ability to create true change in the national education system.
And despite those concessions, the smaller teachers union continued days of debilitating demonstrations in Mexico City, sending tens of thousands of supporters to shut down the capital's main boulevard and protest outside key government building Wednesday. Thousands attended smaller protests in cities around the country. The union also pledged to throw its support behind a weekend protest against the oil reform by leftist leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
"When Congress is rendered void, the only thing that remains is the streets," leftist Sen. Mario Delgado said as a series of his Democratic Revolution Party's objections to specific measures of the reform were rejected in relatively narrow votes.
A protesting teacher carries a cardboard cutout of a cartoon image depicting Mexico´s President Enrique Pena Nieto with donkey ears during a march in Mexico City, Wednesday ...