MADRID – 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.
Spain has been in recession for most of the past four years and has a record 27.2 percent unemployment rate.
The country came dangerously close to needing a sovereign bailout last year as the country negotiated a 40 billion euro bailout for its stricken banking system while its borrowing costs soared. But the threat has since receded owing to the government's deficit-reduction program and a pledge of help from the European Central Bank to buy up unlimited amounts of short-term bonds in countries struggling with high borrowing costs.
Thursday saw the Treasury once again beating its target as it sold a total of 4.57 billion euros ($6 billion) in bonds at sharply lower rates — its maximum target was 4.5 billion euros.
The auction sold 1.86 billion euros in three-year bonds, 1.55 billion euros in five-year bonds, and 1.16 billion euros in bonds maturing in 2026.
Associated Press television journalist Alicia Lopez contributed to this report.t for raising money in a bond auction in the latest sign of investor confidence.
The Treasury sold a total of 4.57 billion euros ($6 billion) in bonds at sharply lower rates — its maximum target was 4.5 billion euros. The auction sold 1.86 billion euros in three-year bonds, 1.55 billion euros in five-year bonds, and 1.16 billion euros in bonds maturing in 2026.