Earlier this month, two thousand members of CNTE – one of the largest of Mexico's teachers unions – gathered in front of the building housing the country's Supreme Court to protest against a recently-passed education reform act. The legislation passed late last year calls for a removal of certain labor protections from teachers and introduces probationary periods for new hires, among other changes.
Because the initiative included changes to the Mexico's constitution, it did not go into effect until 17 of the country's 32 states ratified it. According to Huffington Post, earlier this week ratification from 18 states was announced.
The new law will put a new system into place that will professionalize the hiring, promotions and evaluation of teachers. Until now, teaching positions were mainly either inherited or bought.
This measure to improve the quality of teachers in the country has strong support from both sides of the ideological divide. The law was initially introduced and passed during the waning months of the tenure of conservative President Felipe Calderon. His successor, President Enrique Pena Nieto, also supports the measure.
"The goal of the reform is a quality education and for this there are two big things (needed): evaluating professional teachers and the body that will evaluate the system," said Sen. Juan Carlos Romero Hicks, president of the Senate's Education Commission who confirmed the reform's approval.
The measure shifts control from the hands of the National Union of Education Workers to the federal government. It is considered a substantial setback to the union's 23-year president Elba Esther Gordillo and is a knock on her credentials as a "kingmaker" of politicians all over Mexico. Gordillo has been protesting the law since it was first mooted last fall, saying that it represented a threat to the job stability of the country's teachers.
However, many suspect that her real motive was the fact that the law made her own position much less powerful and a lot more tenuous.
Under the old law, she hires and fires teachers, and she has been accused of using union funds as her personal pocket book.
The overhaul was Pena Nieto's first major proposal since taking office Dec. 1 and is considered a political blow to Gordillo, who has played the role of kingmaker for many Mexican politicians. She was conspicuously absent from the announcement.
Now that the measure has met the ratification hurdle, it is expected to be signed into law in about a week.