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Sweeping Education Changes Opposed by Powerful Union Head Get Final Approval

Associated Press
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January 17, 2013
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Teachers union boss Elba Esther Gordillo of Mexico, shown in 2006 in Mexico City. (Dario Lopez-Mills/Associated Press)

MEXICO CITY - A plan to overhaul Mexico's public education system has been ratified by 18 of the country's 31 states, allowing it to be enacted by President Enrique Pena Nieto, officials confirmed Wednesday.

The law, which is backed by Pena Nieto and was approved by Congress in December, calls for creation of a professional system for hiring, evaluating and promoting teachers without the "discretionary criteria" currently used in a system where teaching positions are often bought or inherited.

"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 plan, which has multi-party support, will move much of the control of the public education system to the federal government from the 1.5 million-member National Union of Education Workers, led for 23 years by Elba Esther Gordillo. 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.

Pena Nieto is expected to sign the reform into law in about a week, Romero Hicks said.

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