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AMLO Update: Undoing Education Reform

López Obrador’s legislative majority all but ensures the demise of his predecessor’s education reform. What will replace it?
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Carlos Tischler/Getty Images

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Highlight of the Week

string of moves by Morena legislators this week promised an early end to President Enrique Peña Nieto’s 2013 education reform.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s campaign-trail opposition to the reform – which instituted evaluations for hiring and promotion and took steps to do away with the practice of inheriting teaching jobs – helped earn him support from the country’s largest teachers’ union

Both López Obrador’s incoming education secretary and Morena’s coordinator in the lower house this week renewed promises to cancel the reform (the latter said “not even a comma” would remain of the original proposal).

In one of the first tests of Morena’s legislative majority, both houses of Congress passed non-binding resolutions calling on the secretary of education to scrap evaluations set for November. Agency officials so far say the exams will continue as planned. But another proposal offered by a Morena senator would legislate a stop to evaluations entirely.

The moves suggest López Obrador will have little trouble getting his early legislative priorities through Congress. But Morena’s haste to end the evaluations – even as AMLO’s team has yet to offer a plan to replace them – raises a red flag, said Marco Fernández, a professor at the School of Government at the Tec de Monterrey and a researcher at México Evalúa.

“It’s an effort to show their base that the promise to cancel the reform is coming true,” Fernández told AQ. “But some of the claims legislators have made (against the evaluations) suggest ... an unwillingness to rely on evidence to improve the quality of education in Mexico.”

What they’re saying: Fernández expands on the trouble with Morena’s education plans in this article by José Beltrán for HuffpostViridiana Ríos on the reform Mexico needs; AMLO’s response to an outbreak of violence at a Mexico City university.

Austerity in Practice

Legislators also showed how far they'll follow AMLO’s lead on austerity, offering proposals to cut costs and do away with congressional perks from international trips to stipends for gasoline. The measures include a broad austerity law that would reduce spending across government, and a pledge of internal cuts in the lower house of over $21 million before year’s end. 

The steps sparked some grumbling from opposition legislators, and skepticism from commentators who argue that cutting relatively small allowances ignores the larger risks of opaque discretionary spending. But most observers agree on the merit of some belt-tightening in Mexico’s legislative branch, which this year enjoyed a budget around $825 million.

What they’re saying: Raymundo Riva Palacio on the limits of budget cutsa deeper look at Congress’ proposed austerity law.

Briefs

AMLO’s team officially launched its signature program for young people who neither work nor study. Young People Building the Future centers on plans to provide paid job training to 2,300,000 people between 18 and 29 years old.

Morena senators agreed to incorporate civil society proposals into legislation to establish a new attorney general’s office, though a proposed constitutional reform to ensure the autonomy of the new office remains off the table.

Administration officials further detailed plans for the construction of a tourist train line that will run through five states in southern Mexico and cost between $6 and $8 billion to build.

López Obrador will begin a “thank you tour” of the country on Sep. 16 in Tepic, Nayarit. 

Quote of the Week

“We’re pretty comfortable with all of them.”

Alfonso Romo, AMLO’s pick for chief of staff, said the incoming administration would respect the contracts signed under President Enrique Peña Nieto following his 2013 opening of the oil sector. Romo also said that the government would not control or subsidize gas prices, which López Obrador has said will fall after three years of government. The comments came days after the president-elect met with oil service executives to outline plans for nearly $4 billion in new investment in the sector.

AMLO Update returns on Sep. 28

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Russell is AQ’s correspondent in Mexico City

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Any opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of Americas Quarterly or its publishers.
Tags: AMLO Update, AMLO, Education reform, Mexico education

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