EDUCATION CUTS

Madrid moots plan to charge students who take packed lunches to school

Catalonia and Valencia already enforcing new measure in response to the government's plan

The Madrid region has signaled it may join Valencia and Catalonia in starting to charge parents for sending their children to school with a packed lunch.

Madrid's economy and finance chief Percival Manglano opened the door to the option on Tuesday, saying it would be up to school councils - the bodies that take decisions in schools - to decide whether or not to apply a charge for bringing food from home. Though Manglano did not give any deadline for implementing the move, he said the region would "give freedom to families" with a new law to be published in the next few weeks.

Catalonia recently announced it would start charging parents up to three euros for sending their children to school with a lunch pail, while Valencia has said it is studying a levy of up to 1.45 euros.

The announcement, which comes just a day after Madrid said it had ruled out charges like the ones in Catalonia, means that around 324,000 pupils in 791 public kindergarten and primary schools would be affected, but not children in public-private or private schools.

Schools will have to make the decision on whether or not to apply the charge given that they will be getting less money from the regional education department, which has said it will not provide more funds to buy kitchen materials and has cut 26 million euros in grants for school dinners and books for next term.

A draft of the new plans, to which EL PAÍS has had access, also says that in cases when schools are unable to offer special menus, pupils will bring food from home and families will have to pay "the relative cost for the use of the dining room and educational attention."

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