SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Thousands of students, education officials and community leaders in Puerto Rico are protesting a proposed 16 percent value-added tax that officials say would strengthen the island's economy.

The crowd marched Thursday toward the seaside Capitol, where legislators were debating the bill.

Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla announced last week that the tax would not apply to private education as originally proposed. Items like gasoline and prescription medication also would be exempt if the bill is approved. The measure also would provide income tax breaks.

Puerto Rico is struggling to reduce $73 billion in public debt and generate more revenue amid concerns that some of its public corporations might go bankrupt.