Friday, August 30, 2013

Oaxaca education at the mercy of omnipotent syndicate

1992 agreement between teachers' union and ex-governor put students' welfare behind that of labor's

*Updated Sept. 6*
Guadalajara -
Mexico's powerful Coordinadora Nacional de los Trabajadores de la Educación (CNTE) cut a sweet deal for itself a decade ago in southwestern Oaxaca state, a seedbed of warring drug cartels, citizen militias, local insurrectionists of every stripe and perennially discontent school teachers.

In effect, the union has a stranglehold over every aspect of public education in Oaxaca.

A 1992 contract entered into by Local 22 of CNTE and then Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) governor Heladio Ramírez gave the union absolute control over the hiring and firing of every primary and secondary school teacher in the state of almost four million, more than a quarter of whom are students. In addition, Oaxaca transferred complete control of its board of education to the syndicate's local membership.

In an article published today the Milenio network reports that union members receive some of the most generous teacher employment benefits in Mexico. CNTE controla uso de plazas en Oaxaca.

Local 22 has been on strike since Aug. 18, idling more than a million students in Oaxaca. Last week its members traveled to Mexico City for a 20,000 strong sit-in which turned violent at times, and which hasn't ended. PRI government shows no resolve against thug teachers. The national, which dislodged the federal congress from its seat last week and has called for other labor syndicates to join it in a country-wide work stoppage, plans a massive demonstration in the Federal District this wekeend.

Under the 1992 contract signed by CNTE and governor Ramírez, Local 22 enjoys absolute say over who is hired in all Oaxaca public schools, as well as appointments to the state board of education.

Any teacher applying for a job in Oaxaca must be a member of Local 22, and enjoy the support of its secretary general. Those who have "taken action against CNTE," or even belonged to another local elsewhere, are not eligible for employment. In net effect, the contract gave Local 22 sole discretion to "distribute and assign" teaching jobs to whomever it liked, irrespective of qualifications. The same rule applies with respect to appointments to the Oaxaca board of education.

"Through its board of education, the government of the state will respect the selection and naming of teachers throughout the educational system" by CNTE, the 1992 contract provides.

It's no surprise that the union, together with other teachers' syndicates, are demanding that Mexico's federal congress repeal recently enacted laws intended to improve teacher quality. The laws require primary and secondary educators to submit to periodic competency and preparedness evaluations according to national, rather than regional or local, standards. The senate approved some educational reforms a week ago on a 91-20 vote, and Mexico's lower chamber, the house of deputies, is expected to approve them on Tuesday, with support from the political right to far left. Legislative determination to move forward with the constitutionally-based reforms has not deterred angry teachers, however.

Apart from control over the entire educational system from top to bottom, Local 22 received extremely generous perks in the 1992 contract, including these:

Oaxaca agreed to award 500 annual scholarships to the children of teachers every year - with CNTE deciding who would get them. The becas, or grants, help with incidental school expenses which tax many Mexican families severely.

Oaxaca agreed to set aside 10 billion pesos - a staggering $770 million USD at today's exchange rate - to be applied to "home building and remodeling for teachers." By way of perspective, in 2006, 14 years after the contract was signed, the entire gross domestic product of the state was less than $12 billion dollars.

The benefits received by Local 22's 73,000 teachers are the best in the nation. They include three full months of auginaldo, a year end bonus paid to employees during the Christmas holidays; paid spring vacation; three months of paid summer vacation; bonuses for union determined "special productivity"; rewards for "punctuality" on the job; up to three cash loans per year from the state, in an amount and under terms to be negotiated by the union with the state; and work transportation subsidies for those who need them.

MIlenio reported today that Oaxaca is carrying long term debt of almost $37 million USD because of teachers' guarantees locked into the 1992 contract.

The paper also reported that in nearby Guerrero state, where another union went on a rampage last April and shut down the state capital for several days, school teachers may designate successors upon retirement, resignation, serious illness or incapacity to serve. They can even "will" their jobs to successors by providing for such in testamentary instruments. If they do not, the local union may make an appointment to the post vacated by a teacher's death based upon blood relationships and family ties.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has ranked Mexico 34 out of 36 countries evaluated for overall quality of the national education system.

Sept. 29 - The "mafia CNTE"
Sept. 23 - The endless lies of AMLO
Sept. 22 - La CNTE: entre la revolución y los privilegios
Sept. 2 - Mexico's House of Deputies passes education reforms
Aug. 31 - Oaxaca freezes pay of striking teachers

Sept. 6 - This excellent article illustrates how corrupt the teaching profession has become in some parts of Mexico. People who have never set foot in a classroom sometimes collect a teacher's salary. Thus a former boss of the powerful Caballeros Templarios drug cartel collected $3,800 in 2010 for his "educational services" in violent Michoacán state.

Aug. 31 - In the interest of presenting the other side of the story, here's an interview with a teacher and union member. He alleges media distortion and government irresponsibility, and claims that parents or teachers often pay for students' books and materials out of their own pocket, because the entire educational system is so underfunded. "There's no such thing as a free public education."

Apr. 24 - Guerrero on verge of civil meltdown, as teachers riot
Apr. 19 - Guerrero erupts as angry teachers besiege state capitol

© MGRR 2013. All rights reserved. This article may be cited or briefly quoted with proper attribution or a hyperlink, but not reproduced without permission.

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