|Students in Madrid called on education minister Esperanza Aguirre to step down [AFP]
Thousands of high school students have rallied in the streets of Madrid to protest against education spending cuts by the Spanish capital's regional government.
The protesters marched through the city's centre on Thursday behind a banner that read "Defend public education, make cuts for bankers" until they reached the capital's Puerta del Sol square.
"Yes, there is money, but the bankers have it", and "Less vultures and more desks", were among the slogans chanted by the demonstrators.
At least 2,000 students took part in the protest. Many wore matching green T-shirts with slogans in defence of public education that have become a symbol of the growing protest against the education spending cuts by the Madrid region's conservative government.
"We have less teachers this year, they closed the library because there is no one to work at it," Alicia Fernandez, a 16-year-old high school student, said.
High school students were called on to strike and protest on Thursday in 35 Spanish cities by their nationwide union.
In Madrid, 85 per cent of students boycotted classes, according to organisers.
In Barcelona, some 2,000 high school students took part in a march through the centre of the city. Organisers put the figure at 15,000.
High school teachers in the Madrid region plan to strike for the sixth time against the spending cuts on October 20.
Teachers, students and parents from across Spain will descend on Madrid on October 22 for a protest against education spending cuts.
Pressed by the ruling Socialist central government to shore up their balance sheets, Spain's 17 regional governments have cut healthcare and education spending.
By asking public high school teachers for two extra classroom hours a week, Madrid's regional government - run by the People's Party (PP), which is expected to win general elections in November - said it can save 80 million euros on extra staff.
The overall budget deficit for the country's 17 regions amounted to 1.2 per cent of gross domestic product at the end of the first half, close to the target of 1.3 per cent for the entire year.
Government spending on public services is emerging as a central campaign theme ahead of a November 20 general election.