Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, April 19, 2013

Protecting their turf and income

The Mexican union for teachers has seen its leader jailed and its authority constitutionally restricted. People don't normally concede political power, especially when its linked with income. Some teachers are conceding neither.

Mexican president faces teachers' revolt
[T]eachers marched by the thousands through the streets… some masked and brandishing metal bars and sticks in an escalating showdown over education reform that's become a key test of President Enrique Pena Nieto's sweeping project to reform Mexico's most dysfunctional institutions.

Teachers protest
The fight is dominating headlines in Mexico and freezing progress on a national education reform that Pena Nieto hoped would build momentum toward more controversial changes…

Pena Nieto's first major legislative victory after taking office in December was a constitutional amendment eliminating Mexico's decades-old practice of buying and selling teaching jobs, and replacing it with a standardized national teaching test. That's heresy to a radical splinter union of elementary and high-school teachers in Guerrero, one of the country's poorest and worst-educated states. The teachers claim the test is a plot to fire them in mass as a step toward privatizing education, although there is little evidence the government plans that…

The 20,000-member group walked out more than a month ago, turning hundreds of thousands of children out of class. Then it launched an increasingly disruptive string of protests.

On Wednesday, the protesters won support from a wing of the armed vigilante groups that have multiplied across poor Mexican states in recent months. On Thursday, they blocked the main highway from Mexico City to Acapulco for at least the third time, backing up traffic for hours. On Friday, they shut down entrances to some of the biggest stores in the state capital…

Now the president finds himself facing unexpectedly tough resistance from rural teachers in straw hats and plastic sandals in his first direct conflict with the Mexican far left, a diverse and fractious group encompassing student activists, militant unions, anarchists and the remnants of indigenous guerrilla groups…

The conflict is fueled by the importance of teaching jobs for the poor mountain and coastal villages where the dissident union is strongest. Teaching jobs in Guerrero with lifelong job security, benefits and pension pay about $495 and $1,650 a month, depending on qualifications and tenure, well above average in rural areas, according to teachers and outside experts. They said the price to get such as job can cost as much as $20,000, usually going to the departing teacher, with cuts for union and state officials…

Teachers at schools that in Guerrero this week told The Associated Press that they agreed for the need for reform, but pointed to a host of problems unrelated to teacher qualifications, including class sizes of up to 40 students per class, curricula that promote rote learning over engagement and a lack of state money for maintenance that forces parents to contribute a mandatory $25 fee so that schools can pay for costs like classroom fans and fixing sports fields…

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