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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 13,803
Registered: 12/3/04
Thousands of Teachers Disrupt Mexico City
Posted: Sep 4, 2013 1:38 PM
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From The New York Times, Saturday, August 24,
2013. See
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/25/world/americas/fighting-education-overhaul-thousands-of-teachers-disrupt-mexico-city.html?_r=1&
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Fighting Education Overhaul, Thousands of Teachers Disrupt Mexico City

By Karla Zabludovsky

MEXICO CITY - Mexico's highly anticipated
education overhaul program - intended to weed out
poorly performing teachers, establish
professional hiring standards and weaken the
powerful teachers' union - is buckling under the
tried-and-true tactic of huge street protests,
throwing the heart of the capital into chaos.

A radical teachers' group mobilized thousands of
members in Mexico City last week, chasing
lawmakers from their chambers, occupying the
city's historic central square, blocking access
to hotels and the international airport, and
threatening to bring an already congested city to
a halt in the coming days.

These mobilizations, analysts said, suggest how
difficult it may be for President Enrique Peña
Nieto to get through this and other changes he
has pushed since taking office in December,
including an energy and telecommunications
overhaul deemed vital to revving up the economy.

Already, lawmakers, who passed the principal
outlines of the education program in December and
are negotiating additional legislation needed to
carry it out, have shelved one of the bill's most
vital provisions, an evaluation requirement aimed
at halting the common practice of buying and
selling teaching jobs and establishing mechanisms
to fire poorly performing instructors.

"What has happened is very grave," said Sergio
Aguayo, a political analyst at the Colegio de
México. "A kidnapped city and a dismantled
reform."

Mr. Peña Nieto had focused on the public
education system because he and analysts have
called it vital to moving more people into the
middle class.

Mexico ranks last in standardized test scores
among the countries in the Organization for
Economic Cooperation and Development. Teachers
buy, sell or inherit positions as though they
were family heirlooms. Removing poorly performing
teachers is virtually impossible, even over
allegations of sexual or substance abuse.

But this year began with hope that change was coming.

The main political parties agreed to work
together to pass the overhaul. In February, the
seemingly untouchable leader of the powerful main
teachers' union, Elba Esther Gordillo, was ousted
from her post and jailed on suspicion of
embezzlement, a rare rebuke to powerful figures
here.

But by April, members of a small but militant
faction of the union began pushing back with
violent protests in Guerrero State, including the
shutdown of the highway connecting the tourist
hub of Acapulco to Mexico City. Demonstrators
then paralyzed parts of Oaxaca and Michoacán
States, in the south and west.

Last week, they descended on Mexico City, where
they turned the central square into a tent city,
forcing the Mexico City Marathon, scheduled for
Sunday, to be rerouted. And they blockaded the
two buildings belonging to the chambers of
Congress, forcing the legislature to meet at a
convention center. "The president of the country,
the secretary of education, they are not putting
up a fight for the reform," said Edna Jaime,
director of México Evalúa, a public policy
research group. "They threw it out and left it
alone."

Ms. Jaime said she believed the federal and state
governments were afraid of heightening the
conflict with a direct confrontation.

On Friday, Mr. Peña Nieto defended the proposal,
saying that teachers who objected to the changes
misunderstood them.

"The education reform will give them
opportunities that they don't have today," he
said. "The reform benefits Mexico's teachers
because it is designed to give them job
stability, clear rules and certainty for
ascending within the national education system."

Much of the rancor from the teachers has focused
on evaluations. The new law would make them
obligatory every four years. Teachers who failed
an evaluation could try again a year later, and
again a year after that. After failing three
times, tenured teachers would be moved to
administrative positions while newer teachers
would be fired.

"This evaluation is disguised to start firing our
peers," said Floriberto Alejo, 50, a teacher who
came from Oaxaca State on Monday.

Mr. Alejo said the proposed overhaul poses a risk
to teachers' seniority. "The education reform,
full of tricks, is on track to privatize
education." He said the change intends to fire
many teachers and make it harder for parents to
find fully staffed public schools, therefore
forcing them to send their children to private
ones.

Last week, Congress stripped that requirement
from the bill, saying it would be taken up at a
later date.

"If this content of the law is eliminated in
order to avoid conflict, the reform will be
practically inconclusive and have no effect,"
said Sergio Cárdenas, an education expert at
CIDE, a Mexico City research university.

By Friday, the city ground to a near standstill.
Getting around the city, in some places, took two
to three times as long as usual.

The country's main airline, Aeroméxico, waived
all change fees for passengers who missed their
flights, while television stations showed
alternate routes to the airport and other
neighborhoods.

"This is the expression of a country that is
drowning in violence," said Mr. Aguayo, the
political analyst. "There is no ability to impose
democratic rules."
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SIDEBAR PHOTO: Teachers blocked access to a
government building in Mexico City on Thursday.
The city's central square was also occupied. Omar
Torres/Agence France-Presse - Getty Images
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A version of this article appears in print on
August 25, 2013, on page A10 of the New York
edition with the headline: Fighting Education
Overhaul, Thousands of Teachers Disrupt Mexico
City.
***********************************************
--
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244
E-mail: jbecker@siu.edu



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