Mexican President Enrique PeÃ±a Nieto has finally taken the first step in implementing a high-stakes education reform platform that has been stalled for several months. The Mexican authorities announced that IEEPO, the State Public Education Institute of Oaxaca, will be replaced with a new government-controlled institute. Federal riot police are guarding the education agency in fear of protests against the president's bold, controversial move.
IEEPO wast the "bastion of resistance," writes Santiago Perez of the Wall Street Journal. Enrique PeÃ±a Nieto fired some 4,000 employees and deployed federal police to prevent dissidents from entering the institution's offices in Oaxaca.
Six in ten members of CNTE "dissident" teachers union are in Oaxaca, and if the president manages to implement some of his intended education reforms in this state, his platform will be easier to execute in the states of Chiapas, MichoacÃ¡n and Guerrero.
Dissidents of the CNTE teacher movement have clashed with the police repeatedly since the major education reforms were passed in 2013. If the reforms are implemented, many of the privileges given to teachers, as well as "featherbedding," will stop.
The CNTE members fear that the reforms will weaken their influence on the education system. Mandatory teacher evaluations are among the most hotly contested reforms the federal government has passed, with the union staging strikes and protests that have lasted for weeks.
The Financial Times says:
"Under the old IEEPO, created in 1992, a faction of the CNTE was guaranteed a certain number of teachers' posts and changes to teaching personnel needed its blessing – a state of affairs clearly at odds with the reform's attempt to create a meritocracy in order to boost education standards."
The reforms aim to boost workforce productivity and to improve education standards in Mexico. Nieto's move to close IEEPO is a major test case for the president that will determine what will follow in other states where CNTE has vehemently opposed the legislation.
In view of the recent escape of drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" GuzmÃ¡n, the government, and Nieto more specifically, have been under heavy criticism. The disappointment brought about by his energy reform auction has also made matters worse for the Mexican president.
Marco FernÃ¡ndez, a researcher at the TecnolÃ³gico de Monterrey and the MÃ©xico EvalÃºa think tank, told the Financial Times:
"If [this education overhaul in Oaxaca] doesn't work, they will be seen as neither capable of holding their most dangerous drug lord, nor implementing their education reform," Mr FernÃ¡ndez said.
Francisco Gil Villegas, a professor of social sciences at the College of Mexico, agrees that the federal government must limit the authority and functions of teachers' union:
"The government needs to limit its functions. It's not clear who is the boss of the teachers, who pays them, who punishes them for wrongdoing. Who's going to make them fulfill their work obligations?"
The clash between the government and the teacher's union has held for over a decade. Between 2006 and 2010, strikes and walkouts deprived students of an average of 64 school days per year.