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NEWS: 200,000 protest privatized education in Chile

Agence France Presse reports, “Clashes broke out Tuesday in Santiago between police and tens of thousand of demonstrators demanding education reform. The rally was one of the largest in recent weeks, with between 50,000 and 130,000 protestors, according to police and protest organizers.” FECH – Federación de Estudiantes de la Universidad de Chile – estimates the number on the streets even higher at 200,000 people.

Ummid.com adds, “Convened by organizations representing high school and university students, the march was also supported by educators, grassroots groups and labour unions. Chilean students took to the streets in large numbers more than 40 times in 2011 to denounce a highly stratified education system that funnels state subsidies to private institutions even as public schools in poor areas struggle. The protests have continued this year, but Tuesday’s mobilization was the first of 2012 to enjoy official backing from teachers and professors unions and other elements of organized labor. …Chile’s public schools and universities were neglected by the 1973-1990 dictatorship of the late Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who embraced doctrinaire free market policies. Private schools mushroomed under the military regime and the trend continued after democracy was restored, even during the 1990-2010 tenure of the center-left Concertacion coalition.”

Last summer the BBC reported, “protests initially triggered by students demanding educational reform have grown into a more general movement demanding constitutional reform, improved pension provision, new labour laws and corporate tax increases to pay for education and health.” The demand for public water services is also a part of this movement.

In this context, we need to speak out more against the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan (which administers the pensions for 178,000 public school teachers, principals and school administrators, and pays pensions to 117,000 retirees) which last year increased its ownership of Chilean private water utilities Essbio and Esval from 50.83 percent and 69.4 percent respectively to 95 percent ownership. The Council of Canadians has repeatedly said that the pension fund for public school teachers should not be invested in private water especially where privatized education has become such a flashpoint, www.canadians.org/OTPP.