Monday, July 30, 2007

Mexico's Teacher's Union Rules

Very interesting profile, in the Economist, of the Teacher's Union in Mexico and its stranglehold on education policy. As in the US, public employee unions are simply vehicles to gain and hold political power, first, last and always.


Ms Gordillo's political power comes mainly from the union's sheer size: with 1.4m members teaching in primary and secondary schools, it is the largest labour union in Latin America. From that political base, Ms Gordillo controls a significant block of deputies in the lower house of the federal Congress, as well as two senators. And while no state governor will say so openly, "none of them will go against her will," says Carlos Ornelas, an education specialist at Mexico City's Metropolitan Autonomous University.

So it is hard to ascribe poor educational performance to lack of money. The problem is how the system is organised. Teachers, including school heads, are accountable to union leaders, not to the education ministry or parents. Teacher evaluation exists in name but not in practice. A significant slice of education spending goes straight to the union. Some 30,000 union officials are on the payroll as teachers; they never set foot in a classroom although there is a teacher shortage in some schools. In 2006, an election year, 750m pesos ($70m) was transferred from the ministry to the union, a threefold rise over the 250m pesos in transfers in 2005, according to Aldo Muñoz, a political scientist at the Iberoamerican University.