18App Challenges: Costly Schooling When Lessons Resume

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The bell rings. Time to go back to the classroom, from the second week of September, throughout Italy. The moment of preparations, starting from the first, essential: to make ends meet. A task complicated by concerns related to galloping inflation in consumer prices. The expenses necessary for the purchase of books, diaries, notebooks and backpacks suffer a real sting in this 2023 due to the increase in costs.

According to calculations conducted by consumer associations, in particular Assoutenti and Federconsumatori, to face the new school year, each family will have to allocate an average of around 1,200 euros for each child. The National Observatory of Federconsumatori found an average increase in costs of 6.2% compared to the previous year, with a 4% increase in the cost of books (where it is however possible to save around 26% by choosing the used).

In detail, a family with a child who attends the sixth grade could have to face an expense of around 488 euros for textbooks and two dictionaries, representing an increase of 10% compared to 2022. To this figure must be added a further 606.80 euros to purchase items such as a diary, notebooks, pencil case and stationery, including the costs of supplies needed throughout the year. The total amount thus reaches 1,095.20 euros. In the case of a first-year high school student, the expenditure for textbooks and four dictionaries reaches around 695 euros, an increase of 2%. Also considering the school equipment, the total expenditure is 1,302.60 euros.

Added to these increases are further increases in costs. The National Union of Consumers has analyzed the relative increases: an increase of 4.3% is expected for school books, while exercise books and reams of paper, according to the latest Istat data, have already undergone an increase of 9.2 % compared to the previous year and by 17.2% compared to September 2021, when paper prices started to rise due to the increase in the cost of energy. If we go to stationery, pens, pencils and highlighters have undergone an increase of 5.6% compared to 2022 and 12% compared to 2021. Massimiliano Dona, president of the National Consumer Union, underlines that the government should intervene promptly to address the problem, proposing a decree that modifies the current rules and allows large supermarket chains and digital platforms to apply discounts on school books of up to 15% of the cover price. In the past, rebates could reach 25%, but now this threshold cannot be exceeded. And if before there were some valid measures to lighten families, now not even that.

The suppression of 18App, introduced by the Renzi government to allow eighteen year olds to spend 500 euros on school books in the year of their majority, is one of the cuts by the Meloni government which takes away useful support for families. The majority kick the ball into the stands. Is it the fault of the publishers, who increase the cost of books, or of the retailers? Paolo Ambrosini, president of Ali Confcommercio (the Italian booksellers association), underlines that the topic of dear books is not new: it is a constant in view of the beginning of the lessons. However, what hasn’t changed is the profit margin of booksellers, which has been steadily decreasing in recent years.

Ambrosini underlines the importance of interventions to support families, such as tax deductions equivalent to those of medical expenses and an increase in funds for the right to study, bringing them from the current 133 million euros to at least 170 million. Furthermore, it is necessary to adjust the expenditure ceiling for textbooks according to inflation, considering that this limit has not been updated since 2012. From all sectors of the education sector, including booksellers, there is an appeal to the government to re-examine the austerity policy towards the school system and educational publishing.

This article is originally published on ilriformista.it

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