Italy’s Publishers Ask Rome to Raise Family Schoolbook Funding

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The Italian Publishers Association and the market’s booksellers are appealing for more government funding for poorer students’ books.

Students in an outdoor class in Ravenna. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Ivinst

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Calling for a Funding Increase to €170 Million
Asserting that access to education is “a constitutional right,” the Association of Italian Publishers (Associazione Italiana Editori, AIE) has appealed to prime minister Giorgia Meloni for an increase in educationally supportive funding for families in deep poverty.

Basing its ask on a tax deduction provided for health and sports expenses, the AIE has been joined by the Italian Booksellers Association (ALI–Confcommercio) in a bid to see broader aid go to underserved families to support textbook purchases and other educational expenses.

The two associations’ presidents—Ricardo Franco Levi at AIE and the booksellers’ Paolo Ambrosini—have written to Meloni, “Access to education is a constitutional right, but without aid to families this right is at risk of remaining on paper.”

The right to study and to have schoolbooks, the publishers and booksellers are telling the Meloni administration, requires more funding allocations in the budget for families below the poverty line, with a tax deduction modeled on that for medical support and youth sport activity expenses.

The appeal has been presented to Meloni as part of a program with the ministry of education and merit.

Ricardo Franco Levi

Levi says, “The starting point is an awareness that access to education is a constitutional right of primary importance and an essential condition for Italy’s growth.

“There are 1.9 million families in Italy in absolute poverty,” a 2021 figure, “and 2.9 million in relative poverty.” Italy’s population stands at some 59.1 million.

“The same statistics,” Levi says, “tell us that these are mostly families with school-age children, whose parents have difficulty buying books for school to provide full access to educational advantages.”

In figures provided to Publishing Perspectives, an outline of allocations from the state shows €133 million (US$142.3 million) annually budgeted for textbook purchases by families in poverty. But these funds, because of a lack of information about their availability and “the way they’re disbursed,” the association says, “are little used and reach families with great delay.”

Paolo Ambrosini

The two associations are calling for an increase in the fund to at least €170 million (US$181.8 million), to cover the full range of families in poverty, and to optimize disbursement methods.

In addition, AIE and ALI-Confcommercio are calling for legislation that allows families to deduct the expense of school books on their taxes, as is already done for their children’s health care expenses or amateur sports activities.

“Such a deduction would have a positive impact, first of all, on families in relative poverty,” the appeal says, “but in our opinion, as in the other cases mentioned, the deduction should be universal and extend beyond compulsory schooling.”

In the Levi-Ambrosini letter to Meloni, the booksellers and publishers are asking for “an intervention to support families to deal with educational spending.”

This would, according to AIE and -Confcommercio, “make it possible to address the many other issues open on the school publishing front, starting with the issue of the spending caps set for books adopted in schools that were created to protect families but stopped in 2012—with prices (per ISTAT) rising by 20 percent since then.

Supportive commentary from the Italian National Association of Headmasters points out that students are now seen at times to work without the assigned books, creating impediments for both those students and their teachers.”

More from Publishing Perspectives on the Italian market is here, more on industry statistics in the international publishing sphere is here, and more on educational publishing issues is here.  As Publishing Perspectives readers will remember, Italy is Frankfurt’s guest of honor market in 2024, preceded by this year’s Guest of Honor Slovenia and followed in 2025 by the Philippines.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is a non-resident fellow of Trends Research & Advisory, and he has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.

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