Author`s name Pravda.Ru

Romanian teachers demand educational funding increase while President promises to make it priority

Hundreds of teachers in Romania staged protests Wednesday in several cities after the government refused to increase funding for education in the 2006 budget. The protest came a day after Education Minister Mircea Miclea resigned, citing the continued "chronic underfunding" of the education system.

In the capital, about 150 teachers and union leaders threatened a general strike unless the government agreed to increase the education budget, which currently stands at about 4 percent of gross domestic product. The unions want the government to allocate at least 6 percent of GDP, the AP informs.

In the northeast city of Iasi, about 400 teachers also complained that local authorities have failed to provide transportation stipends to commuting teachers.

In the western city of Arad, about 100 teachers called for higher wages, carrying banners which read, "We are tired of poverty."

The teachers are also demanding the government agree to double their wages by 2007. The average monthly pay for teachers is about 963 lei (US$320, Ђ270), before taxes.

President Traian Basescu said in a late Tuesday television show that the ruling coalition promised to make education a priority and fund it with at least 6 percent of GDP.