Italian Teachers Protest ‘Good School’ Reforms, Strikes Loom


Thousands of teachers in Italy are protesting against a “Good School” reform bill that seeks to slash school funding. The reform bill gives a permanent contract to 100,000 substitute teachers as well as teacher funding for teacher development and cultural activities.

Teacher unions consider the seemingly-generous “Good School” reform bill a bad idea because it will leave out thousands of substitute teachers that will not get tenure. Teachers are protesting in Rome, Milan, Catania, Palermo and Cagliary, among other cities, to express their reaction against the passing of the bill, which was approved by the Italian cabinet in March and needs to by passed by the Parliament to go into effect.

The bill states that schools will be in charge of selecting staff and of bringing more transparency into the education system by making teacher CVs and school financial reports available online, The Local says.

Teachers will be given raises based on merit and not seniority level, the bill proposes. Teachers argue that the bill compromises educators’ rights and at the same time increases their workload but keeps their salaries unchanged.

By this fall, about 100,000 teachers will receive tenure followed by 23,000 nursery school teachers in 2016 if the bill passed by the Italian Parliament.  Last fall, the European Court of Justice decided that Italy had to offer permanent contracts to substitute teachers being on the job for over 3 years on short-term contracts.

Protesting teachers consider their prime minister’s plan unfair and beneficial only for private schools while public schools remain severely underfunded. Italy’s spending on education is the lowest in the Eurozone, with Italy spending 4.9 percent of its GDP on education, which is below the average standard set by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. At the same time, drop-out rates are among the highest in Europe, Isla Binnie reporting for Reuters observes.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi says the reform is essential as it will help make Italy’s poorly performing schools more efficient. This is contradicted by rallying teachers who say the “Good Schools” bill fails to confront the fundamental reasons why Italy’s educational system is struggling. Susanna Camusso, CGIL trade union leader, says the reform bill “favors the richest and divides the precarious.”

Education Minister Stefania Giannini has stated the protest reasons left her “frankly perplexed,” adding that they are irrelevant to what the “Good School” reform bill aims to achieve, which is: “[fostering] scholastic autonomy and strengthening the education on offer”.

Teachers say they will continue protesting the reform bill until they manage to pressure the government to abandon it. Strikes are scheduled for May 12 in seven cities.