David Agren: Politics at Play in Mexico's Ongoing Teacher Protests
Marco Antonio Poot Cahun grew up in a Maya community south of Cancun, where he says teachers put politics ahead of education at every election. He recalls them plying poor farmers with seed and fertilizer, paying cash for voter IDs so opponents wouldn't cast ballots and even having his teacher knock on his door to give everyone hats and T-shirts.
"Politics in this state is increasingly being supported by teachers," says Poot, an indigenous Maya, recent university graduate and stand-up comic, who paid for part of his education by working in community schools through a government program.
Teachers have long played important roles in Mexican politics as opportunistic politicians and political parties have leveraged the teachers union's organizational muscle and long reach into the country's most remote pueblos - where educators are often influential individuals - to sway elections.
But a recently approved education overhaul proposes a radical change to the status quo by subjecting teachers to tests, making merit the criterion for promotions and putting limits on union influence in the hiring and firing process.
Teachers in many parts of Mexico have walked off the job in protest, saying the changes scapegoat them for the failings of a school system rife with insufficient infrastructure and so short on funds that parents in poor communities often pitch in to pay the electric bill for buildings that lack running water or even roofs.
See the original at USA Today
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