The battle over education funding has turned violent in Chile.
An estimated 10-thousand high school and university students have been on strike for the past two months in a push for major changes in the way Chile funds its public education system.
Today the Buenos Aires Herald reports, demonstrations erupted in several Chilean cities. Riot police used water cannons and tear gas as they battled hooded protesters who lobbed rocks at police cars and buses. Fires were set at some police barricades.
Students are calling for dramatic reforms to what they call an underfunded and unequal education system. They're also demanding a constitutional right to a free and quality education.
According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, (OECD), Chile has a graduation rate of nearly 73%. Though, as in the United States, those figures are based only on the number of students that make it to high school.
As is the case in many countries, students from low incomes families in Chile are faced with sub-standard educational opportunities. A study by theCouncil on Hemispheric Affairs determined that wealthier students are the only ones in the South American country that have access to a quality education which will guarantee them the opportunity to go to college.
The current Chilean education system was primarily set up during the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, who de-centralized the system and left municipalities to come up with the money to finance public schools. Since the dictatorship was dissolved, attempts to fully reform the system have been thwarted.
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera has proposed new education reforms which would increase funding and return the responsibility for education to the centralized national government. To date, lawmakers have refused to meet with the President to settle the strikes.