How education reform in Mexico could reframe US immigration debate

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 10 2013 7:00 a.m. MDT

Teachers battle with Mexican federal police in the city of Oaxaca, Mexico, Tuesday Feb. 15, 2011. Protesting teachers belonging to section 22 of the Education Workers National Union(SNTE) clashed with federal police when they tried to break past the security perimeter set up for the visit of Mexican President Felipe Calderon to Oaxaca city. According to the teachers union, 20 teachers were injured during the incident.(AP Photo/Luis Alberto Cruz)

Associated Press

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Improving Mexico’s expensive and underachieving public-education system would be a win-win proposition for both the United States and its neighbor to the south, according to a staff editorial in Monday’s Dallas Morning News that applauded the education reforms the Mexican Senate and lower house passed last week.

“This is an issue Texas readers should care deeply about, even if they understandably shy away from the complexities of Mexican politics,” the Morning News said. “This reform package has potential to reduce illegal immigration by boosting education standards and better preparing students for Mexico’s job market. Mexico’s high dropout rates help perpetuate the cycle of poverty by flooding the job market with low-skilled workers. Depressed wages are what drive millions of Mexicans to this country in search of work.”

Among industrialized nations Mexico ranks second in per capita education spending. Yet as the Dallas Morning News reported in March, “here’s where Mexico’s education system stands: In standardized measurements among all 34 member nations of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, Mexican 15-year-olds rank dead last in literacy, dead last in math, dead last in science.”

In February the fate of education reform in Mexico likely took a turn for the better when Elba Esther Gordillo, the head of Mexico’s largest teachers’ union, was arrested on suspicion of embezzling $200 million from her employer — a union representing 1.5 million teachers that is commonly referred to by its Spanish-language acronym, SNTE.

“As the SNTE's leader for more than 20 years, Ms. Gordillo has held real influence over governments and presidents by persuading her members to vote as a single bloc,” BBC News reported on Feb. 28. “The SNTE is the most powerful union in Latin America with an annual budget of tens of millions of dollars.”

Email: jaskar@desnews.com

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