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Mexico to purge nonworking teachers from payroll

FILE - In this Friday, March 8, 2019 file photo, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador answers questions from journalists at his daily 7 a.m. press conference at the National Palace in Mexico City. Lopez Obrador said he sent a letter to Spain and the Vatican on March 1, asking them to apologize for the conquest of the Americas five centuries ago. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte, File)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Saturday that his government will conduct a census to determine which teachers are working and purge the rest from the payroll.

Speaking in Mexico’s western state of Michoacan, the president gestured with a thumb to indicate that any “freeloader” found on the payroll will be tossed.

López Obrador plans to federalize education rather than allocate school funds to states. He said some governors spend federal money earmarked for education on other things and then ask for more money.

“We are going to bring order,” he said.

A similar accounting of children looked after by state-funded day care centers this year found the centers were caring for only two-thirds of the 300,000 children they claimed, but still charging for that care, Lopez Obrador said.

A federal audit of education spending in 2017 found 141,265 phantom positions, such as teachers who were no longer teaching. The audit also showed 1.39 billion pesos ($77 million) in irregular payments from education funding, such as unusually high salaries and payments to non-teaching union personnel.

The states of Michoacan and Oaxaca had the highest number of unexplainable payments.

Michoacan suffered paralyzing rail blockades in January by striking teachers demanding back pay from the state government.

The crowd on Saturday booed Michoacan Gov. Silvano Aureoles, who appeared alongside López Obrador.

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