Students, parents and teachers from all levels of the Spanish public education system went on strike to protest the massive cuts proposed as part of the government’s austerity program.
NOAH GIMBEL: Iâ€
As part of sweeping budget cuts begun by the Socialist party and intensified by the right-wing Popular Party elected into an absolute majority last November, the central government hopes to reduce spending on education by more than 10 billion Euros by 2015. That will bring education spending down to a 3.9% share of GDP, well below the European Union average of 5.5%.
In practice, the cuts will amount to increased hours for teachers and professors, up to a 50% increase in tuition for public universities, and a 20% increase in the maximum number of students per class. In primary education, the limit would rise from 25 to 30 students per class, and in secondary education from 30 to 36. For â€˜non-obligatoryâ€
The Socialist Party has estimated that the cuts would result in the elimination of 80,000 teaching jobs in obligatory public education around the country, and the labor unions have placed that number even higher.
Among the tens of thousands of protestors demonstrating against the cuts in downtown Madrid, a large number came representing the teaching profession.
Paloma RamÃrez, a professor at the polytechnic university in Madrid, is a member of one of the leading teachers unions that called for the strike.
PALOMA: We are principally concerned with protecting the public sector. We will not allow the dismantling of public resources in favor of privatization that doesnâ€
GIMBEL: Javier, also a professor in Madrid, does not belong to a teachersâ€
JAVIER: This strike is completely pertinent because the University, in this moment, along with the rest of the public education system, is in an impasse. It lacks a future, it lacks clarity in terms of administrational support for the basic instruments of the betterment of society.
GIMBEL: And the repercussions of the cuts would be felt at all levels of public education. Carmen is a primary school teacher.
CARMEN: The cuts to education would mean increasing the student-teacher ratio. The students would be poorly attended to; we wonâ€
GIMBEL: But perhaps the most important element of the protest was the involvement of students, whose future in a country at the brink of economic collapse, with youth unemployment at over 50% and a childhood poverty rate of 26% is precarious at best.
FIDEL: My name is Fidel GonzÃ¡lez, Iâ€
GIMBEL: Alba is a journalism student at la Universidad Complutense de Madrid.
ALBA: For example I donâ€
GIMBEL: A younger generation of high school students also participated in the strike.
GIRACO: I came to protest for the importance of public education for many families, and many students who canâ€
GIMBEL: And a number of parents, concerned with the education of their children, attended as well.
FRANCISCO GARCÃA: The cuts would mean that the quality of my daughtersâ€
GIMBEL: At the close of the rally, representatives from the various groups involved in its planning called for an immediate end to the cuts in public education. But as the government moves forward with its austerity budget, itâ€
For the Real News Iâ€