MADRID (AP) — Thousands of students and teachers staged a strike across Spain on Thursday to protest government austerity measures and a planned new education reforms.
The stoppage affected all levels of education and union pickets were placed at many schools and universities across the country. Organizers claimed a 65 percent turnout by teachers for the strike, while the Education Ministry put the figure at 19 percent.
The Platform for the Defense of Public Schools, which groups together students, teachers and administrative staff, called the strike to protest austerity measures which they say are running down the state school system.
They have also called on Education Minister Jose Ignacio Wert to withdraw a reform — due to be approved Friday — which sets new grading systems, places more weight on Catholic religion classes and further cuts education funds.
"Teachers are working in very limited conditions with less time and fewer teachers than before, "said Almudena Cabezas, politics professor at Madrid's Complutense University.
"Pupils are being harassed with tax increases and are having to cancel enrolments. Also, administrative staff are having their salaries reduced and are being fired...so I think we have every reason to be here today," she added.
Spain has seen almost daily protests by people angry over cuts and reforms in the education and health sectors while banks have been bailed out with billions of euros.
The central and regional governments claim the cuts are necessary to help Spain rein its swollen deficit to within European Union limits.