Thursday, February 12, 2015

Today's Headlines: Are the streets as good a venue as any for debating education policy? They're certainly where the action is.

The future of education is in dispute in lots of countries. There’s much to be resolved. At issue are teacher pay and qualifications, standardized testing, curriculum, local control, the effect of poverty, common core standards, partial privatization, and the perverse current U.S. policy of punishing underperforming public schools instead of improving them.
    But here in Mexico lately, it’s all about who controls the streets.
    For most of three days this week, protesting Oaxaca teachers from the activist organization CNTE had the upper hand in Mexico City, taking Paseo de la Reforma out of circulation and essentially shutting down business along it.
    Then around one in the afternoon Wednesday, 3,500-4,000 city and federal police finally moved in, herding the demonstrators away from Reforma and back into the open space around the Monument to the Revolution, where they had slept the night before. It was this action that got the headlines. As usual, Excelsior, the only daily to lead with the story, put it most simply: “CNTE removed.”  La Jornada anticipates a sequel: “We’re leaving, but this isn’t over yet: Teachers.” So does Milenio: “CNTE thrown out of the DF, threaten to return.”
    For the record, the teachers weren’t “thrown out of the DF.” They were moved off Reforma, and later left on their buses. Still, the fact that the cops made a move, risking accusations of repression (which of course they promptly got) is significant. What changed? 

CALENDAR QUIRK: ARREST SEASON AND ELECTION SEASON TEND TO COINCIDE El Universal and Milenio both lead with follow-ups on the arrest Tuesday of six people close to former Guerrero Governor Ángel Aguirre, including his brother. EL U probed the public record and came up with: “Aguirre clan had millions of pesos of public works with three governments.”  That’s 584 million pesos, to be precise, in government contracts to a company that is, according to El Universal, "operated by the presumed network of Carlos Aguirre, brother of the ex-governor of Guerrero." Ángel Aguirre didn't bother to be discrete about his nepotistic leanings while governor; what EL Universal seems to be getting at here is favorable treatment in the assigning of public works projects.
    Now that it’s open season on Aguirre, Milenio did its own poking around and came up with this: “Aguirre government errors in 2012 cost a billion pesos.” The paper says federal government auditors have evidence that the Guerrero state government mishandled, wasted or re-routed a billion pesos worth of federal funds during Aguirre’s first full year in office.
    It was also reported that the former governor has officially left his party, the PRD. Even though he hasn't been legally accused of anything, he said he has made himself available to the Attorney General’s Office for questioning.
    It should also be pointed out that there is an undercurrent of politics in the recent Aguirre news. President Peña Nieto’s PRI thinks it has a good chance of taking Guerrero back from the PRD in the upcoming June elections, given the string of scandals involving PRD office holders in the last year. The timing of the “Aguirre clan” arrests at the outset of election season is not lost on PRD leaders, and it wouldn’t be the first time that half-baked charges were used for political gain. It's also not out of the question that the Milenio scoop was, shall we say, "facilitated."

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