Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto signed major education reforms into law on Monday, limiting the power of the teachers’ union. By modifying two articles of the constitution, the overhaul allows the government to hire and fire teachers, and aims to gather reliable data on schools, teachers and students in Mexico’s education system, which serves an estimated 35.5 million children. Monday “begins an education transformation Mexican society longs for,” the president said during a ceremony at the National Palace in the capital.
Mexico’s 1.4 million-strong teachers’ union (SNTE)—the largest in Latin America—staged nationwide strikes to oppose some of the proposed reforms, fearing they could result in massive layoffs. The union “cannot support a measure that threatens our job security,” said Elba Esther Gordillo, who has led the union for the past 23 years. Still, with Mexico ranking last on test scores among OECD countries, President Peña Nieto considered taking on the unions necessary to achieving meaningful reform.
Bipartisan support of the reform renews hope that the president commands the political capital to pursue his ambitious reform agenda, which includes overhauls of the tax and energy systems. “This reform is the first great step to transform the education of our young. We are going to get Mexico moving,” Mr. Peña Nieto said in a Twitter post, shortly after the education bill passed the Congress 360-51 last December.