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School's out: From elementary grades to university, Spanish teachers, students go on strike
MADRID (AP) ' Teachers and students at all levels of Spain's education system went on strike Tuesday to protest wide-ranging government spending cuts, chanting and erecting makeshift tombs at university campuses to symbolize what they claim will be the death of the country's schooling system.
Union officials said it was too early to estimate how many teachers had stayed away from work. All but three of Spain's 17 regions took part.
Spain's government is pushing through painful austerity measures to heal public finances, which risk being overwhelmed by the costs of helping a troubled banking sector. Investors fear Spain might eventually need a bailout like Greece, Ireland and Portugal.
The impact of the budget cuts has been brutal, however. Unemployment has swelled to nearly 25 percent, and among people under age 25 it is a staggering 52 percent. The situation is likely to get worse before it improves, with the economy in its second recession in three years and the full impact of new austerity measures yet to hit the country.
For education, the billions of euros in cuts to government spending translate into fewer teachers, more students per class, fewer extra-curricular activities and higher university tuition.
Andreu Vela, a 21-year-old journalism student at Madrid's Complutense University, dressed up as the Grim Reaper as he marched around campus with other protesters chanting against the higher fees and the spending cuts.
"For us, the university so far has been a place of knowledge, that's our idea of the university. Now it's becoming a place of recruiting armies of workers," he said.
Virginia Fernandez, a representative of the Madrid branch of the teachers union FETE, said a lot of parents even at the primary school level had kept their kids home in a show of support for the strike.
"Families are really getting involved," she said. "There is major involvement in all of the education community."
Earlier in the day, the government tapped capital markets to raise money and, as often before in recent weeks, saw its borrowing rates rise.
The Treasury sold '1.51 billion in 3-month notes at an average interest rate of 0.85, up from 0.63 at the last such auction on April 24. It sold '1.02 billion in 6-month notes at an average rate of 1.74 percent, up from 1.58 percent last time.
The amount sold slightly exceeded the '2.5 billion Spain had hoped to raise. For both maturities, demand was 4 times the amount on offer.