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Mexican lawmakers pass education overhaul

MEXICO CITY — Lawmakers approved a major overhaul of Mexico’s public education system on Wednesday, giving President Enrique Peña Nieto a crucial victory in his drive to fix some of the country’s most dysfunctional institutions.

By a margin of 102 to 22, senators voted for a package of measures that will establish a standardized testing system for evaluating teacher performance and the hiring of new faculty, ending corrupt practices that allowed union bosses to buy and sell classroom jobs and pad their pockets.

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The Senate vote followed approval by the lower house of Congress on Sunday by a margin of 390 to 69.

The stranglehold of Mexico’s teachers unions on the public education system has long been viewed as major drag on the country’s economic and social development. Mexico spends more per pupil on a per capita basis than most industrialized nations, yet produces the lowest academic achievement levels. Fewer than half of Mexican students finish high school.

Meanwhile, millions in education funds are siphoned off for the salaries of union officials. Even drug lords have turned up on teacher payrolls.

Teachers union members protested the measures in Mexico City on Wednesday.

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