Just returning from a week long trip to "Cocoyoc" a resort in the mountains outside of Mexico City.  The word means place of the coyotes in the native Nahuatl and was first settled by them in the 11th century.  In the 16th century the Spanish built a large hacienda in the area where the resort now sits.  While the environs were beautiful my conversations with Mexico civil society leaders from all over the country about how to improve the education system in Mexico was serious business.

Mexican school children score the lowest of all 28 members states of the OECD (Organization for Economic Coopration and Development) despite the fact that Mexico spends comparable amounts per student with many other member nations.

Why aren't the students achieving?  A major reason in my view is the Mexican Teachers Union (SNTE) or Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educacion.  It has overstepped its role in protecting the labor rights of its members and created a corrupt political empire with little accountability for its actions.  It's leader Elba Esther Gordillo, also not so affectionately known as "La Maestra," recently declared herself "leader for life." She is widely reported to extort millions of dollars from public education funds for personal use.  She cruises around Mexico City in a hummer, and owns a $5 million dollar home in San Diego and various upscale apartments in the Capitol according to a recent report by The Economist [1].  She also has a strangle hold on government.  She might be corrupt and selfish but she is a smart politician.  She created a third party that represents 1.3 million teacher's votes....important votes since the PRI and the PAN parties in Mexico have been running so closely in recent elections and she has used her political leverage to her advantage...not so much for the education needs of Mexican children but for her own personal and political interests.

Just as bad ---her union actively resist standardized qualifications for teachers, teacher testing, and mandatory exams for students to measure learning.  Teachers within the union recently went on strike last year to perserve their ability to determine who would recieve their jobs when they retire.  They wanted to be able to either sell them for money ($6 or $7K) or hand them down to their children in the manner of an old fashioned trade like blacksmithing!  Not all the teachers are in support of the union, some studies show that as many as 80% of teachers disagree with union practices but many are afraid to come forward and challenge the status quo.

I am really passionate about working on this issue because unlike other issues I have worked on in the US, all of which I obvously thought/think are important, this one has the potential to be truly transformative in so many ways.  Putting labor/economic interests ahead of the developing minds of a nation's young people is a deep assault to their human rights and dignity, a huge loss of potential for the students and for Mexico and its continued future development.

This campaign is going to need a lot of resources and momentum and we are just getting started.  While we are clearly on the right side of history, this will be no easy fight.

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