May 19, 2014 / 3:59 PM / 6 years ago

Chile's Bachelet to send key education reform to Congress

Chile's President Michelle Bachelet walks past honour guards as she arrives at the Casa Rosada Presidential Palace for a meeting with Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in Buenos Aires May 12, 2014. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Chile’s president Michelle Bachelet will send her landmark education reform package to Congress on Tuesday, making good on one of her key campaign promises that could define the success of the socialist’s second four-year term in office.

Tens of thousands of students have taken to Chile’s streets in recent years to demand free and improved education in a nation fettered by the worst income distribution among the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s 34 member states.

“Chile needs and the people have clamored for this reform, which must transform quality education into a right,” Bachelet said at a bill-signing ceremony at the Moneda presidential palace.

Proposals include changing the way schools are funded, ending state subsidies to for-profit schools, and eliminating selective entrance policies. Plans to make university education free will wait until a second round of reforms later this year.

Bachelet, who took office in March for her second non-consecutive term, ran on a platform of introducing more than 50 reforms in her first 100 days, including a tax reform to fund the education overhaul.

Her ambitious tax reform, which will be reviewed by the Senate after being approved by the Lower House of Congress last week, seeks to raise Chile’s tax haul by 3 percent of gross domestic product, or some $8.2 billion.

Reporting by Anthony Esposito; Editing by David Gregorio

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