Spain's Teachers Protest Contract Changes, Layoffs

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The economic crisis in Spain has hit public education where "jobs for life" had been the norm for teachers. As students head back to school, teachers across Spain are demonstrating against layoffs and contract changes.

DAVID GREENE, host: Let's go to Spain now. It's a country where teachers never had to worry about losing their jobs. The economic crisis has changed that. As Spanish students head back to school this week, teachers across the country are holding demonstrations to protest layoffs and contract changes. From Madrid, Lauren Frayer reports.

LAUREN FRAYER: Raquel Perez quit her job at a private school to take up teaching English in Madrid's public schools, where she'd get better pay and job security - or so she thought. Now Perez is one of thousands of teachers laid off across Spain.

RAQUEL PEREZ: It was really unexpected, because this has never happened before.

FRAYER: Public education is the latest victim of Spain's budget cuts, as regional governments scramble to lower their spending, on orders from Madrid. Those who still have jobs are being asked to teach more hours for the same pay. Others say they're assigned to teach subjects they know nothing about. Unions in Madrid have called a two-day strike next week, and teachers from around the country plan to march on the capital next month. Perez says she's worried her former students will suffer in the end.

PEREZ: My fellow teachers who are still working are very worried about the quality of the education they are going to be able to provide our students.

FRAYER: Nearly 100 Spanish intellectuals and artists have signed a manifesto for public education, in support of the teachers. For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer, in Madrid.

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