Chile's Senate approves education budget

AP News
Posted: Nov 25, 2011 4:48 PM
Chile's Senate approves education budget

Chile's Senate approved the government's 2012 education budget Friday after 29 hours of debate in a vote in which the center-left opposition abstained.

Students who have been protesting for more than six months for greater funding and reforms to the education system opposed the budget put forward by President Sebastian Pinera's government.

The government and opposition were close to reaching an agreement on a revised budget plan but ultimately failed, and the vote on Pinera's proposal went forward. Christian Democratic Sen. Ignacio Walker said only $130 million separated the sides.

Senators approved an $11.5 billion budget, which was an increase of $350 million from the previous year.

Center-left Sen. Ricardo Lagos Weber said opposition lawmakers decided not to vote on the budget because it was "small and unambitious" but they didn't want to block it. The proposed budget was rejected earlier by the Chamber of Deputies.

Parts of the budget will now be submitted to a commission of legislators from both houses for final approval before the Wednesday deadline.

In May, university and high school students began protests calling for major changes to the education system, including free tuition, more funding and an increased state role in the sector. The sometimes violent protests paralyzed Chile's universities and schools.