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— Sánchez says he believes school officials such as Contreras when they say they can't operate on the money they get from the state of Baja California. "Their schools have enormous needs, and the state does not give them the proper funds to solve these problems. With the taxes we pay, there should be enough to solve the situation. But the state mismanages the money. The government says that they allocate more than 50 percent of the budget for education. I am not very convinced of that. And even so, most of that goes for salaries for teachers and bureaucrats. The state education authorities know the problem. They are against fees being charged for education, but in reality they allow it because they do nothing to fix the situation or they act in a very limited way. And this attitude encourages the schools to charge illegally. And because they are the people who educate the future generations, they are creating a culture against legality."

And they may be creating a culture of unrest among parents who are feeling the bite. "I had to pay 600 pesos to register my daughter," says Pedro (who would not give his real name), the father of a first grader at Otho Murillo Salgado elementary school in the Mesa de Otay area of Tijuana. "Then I had to buy 1200 pesos' worth of materials for the school and pay 400 pesos for the monthly tests. And at the end of the year, I'll have to pay another 280 pesos to get my daughter's report card. Without it, she can't go on to the second grade."

Juanita (not her real name), who has a son in the fourth grade at the same school, confirmed the numbers Juan gave and added "80 pesos for insurance." In Mexico, schools carry insurance that covers their students against injuries from the time they leave home on the way to school until they return. "If I don't pay," Juanita adds, "my son might not be admitted to class, and he could lose his place in school."

Pedro rejects the idea that schools must charge parents in order to keep their doors open. "They get enough money from the government to run the school," he claims. "I think they're keeping the money for themselves."

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