SCHOOL / AND vacant chairs: only individual schools can solve the problem

By now the new school year has begun in all the Regions and, as every year, the alarm for the “empty chairs” starts: an alarm that is certainly well founded, even if its exact dimensions remain uncertain. At one extreme the minister Bianchi, who ritually guaranteed that on September 15 all the chairs would be covered, failing to say that many teachers will be replaced after a few days and maybe several times before reaching the definitive coverage.

At the other extreme, the personnel unions that speak of 200 thousand shortages, putting together the places that really need to be filled and the total number of those who aspire to fill them. In any case, it is true that a significant number of places do not yet have a permanent teacher and that the experience of the past years teaches that the “ballet” of teachers will not stop at least until the end of October. A month and a half of lame teaching for at least 15 percent of students, according to a conservative estimate.

This is a historic problem for our school, dating back to the expansion of demand for education in the late 1960s. The fact that, even if its dimensions, the modalities with which it manifests itself and in large part also the causes are known, it is not possible to solve it, indicates that the approach used up to now is wrong. Not even the complete computerization of the procedures has improved things: indeed, traditional errors have been added to those due to the digitization of data.

So what is the radical mistake that prevents the problem from being solved? It is a question of a social and trade union nature, not a technical one: the assumption that we do not want to question is that every aspiring teacher has the unlimited right of choice on all vacant posts in his province. This has an obvious consequence: seats can only be assigned sequentially, one at a time. Until the first has chosen, the second cannot and so on, until the conclusion.

Added to this are the very frequent appeals, due in part to the lamentable state of operation of many offices, but also to the deep-rooted conviction of almost all the aspirants who were dissatisfied with being victims of abuse.

If you want to consider this mechanism sub specie philosophiaeit derives from a starting point that is anything but incontrovertible: the teaching posts – and therefore the school – are a resource for those who aspire to occupy them and not for the students who should benefit from them: whose right to have a permanent teacher in the chair can easily wait even many weeks.

Defending this ideal trench are obviously the trade unions – it is their job – and unfortunately also the TARs, when they are called into question. The laws in force and the ordinances in fact incorporate this principle, even without calling it by its name: a privatization de facto of a public resource. What is surprising is that the public administration does nothing to change such clearly inadequate legislation. The reason given is theoretically high: the impartiality of the administration. However, it is forgotten that impartiality does not concern only the relationships between the aspirants, as if those posts were something exclusively theirs. Impartiality is among all stakeholders: while those of students and families are systematically forgotten. Not to mention that – if we want to call into question the art. 97 of the Constitution – it binds the functioning of public offices not only to the principle of impartiality, but also to that of good performance: the great absence in the functioning of this gigantic and ineffective machine.

The dimension of the interests at stake is usually used as an excuse: over 200 thousand aspirants to teaching. It is forgotten that the students are over 7 and a half million, of which at least 15 percent are interested in the problem: one million citizens, wanting to neglect their families and the general interest of the country in having a school that works from the very beginning day.

That said, if the public authorities finally decided to interpret their role in the way that the Constitution and simple common sense require, there would be a remedy: a remedy that is implemented in many other countries and that has made its own tests. It would be enough to give schools the power to assign vacancies. We also put aside, here, the question of permanent recruitment and the vexata quaestio competitions. The problem we are dealing with, namely the regular start of lessons, has little to do with that. For various reasons, a large number of places cannot have a holder, but must be covered annually by a teacher in possession of the qualifications, classified as an annual alternate.

The schools know their de facto staff, that is the definitive one, in the first half of July: starting from that moment they could begin to appoint, with effect from September. To do this, they could use the provincial rankings – the same that the offices will use many weeks later – without prejudice to compliance with the scores and priorities. There is a further variant to this possibility: that the schools use their own rankings, which are a subset of the provincial ones, including only the teachers who have applied for replacement in that school (each teacher can apply only in a limited number of schools, but – when called by the provincial office – he can also choose over all the others).

If each school used its own rankings, much shorter, the coverage of vacant chairs would run out in a week or so: but teachers could only obtain appointments in a limited number of schools (which, however, would be those chosen and indicated by themselves. for substitutes). If, on the other hand, the principle of choice of all schools in the province were to be saved at all costs, the procedure would be slower, but in any case incomparably faster than the current one, also considering that it could start earlier.

For such a mechanism to have the desired effects, it must also be accompanied by another rule: that each teacher is free to accept the proposal for the appointment of a school or to reject it, betting that he will receive better proposals. But once an appointment has been accepted, he will no longer be able to reject or change it. Otherwise, one of the causes of the current ballet would arise again. Each school has a limited number of places to fill annually: rarely more than ten or fifteen. If she were free to call as early as July and sure that, once accepted, the nominees can no longer think again, her staff would be complete by early August and ready to ensure the normal start of September. And this is because the process would take place in parallel, that is with the simultaneous participation of all the schools, rather than in series, that is, in a single provincial center and rigidly with the appointment of one aspirant at a time.

Of course, to return to the analysis of the method sub specie philosophiae, this would involve a radical inversion of the principle: the places would be available to the schools, which would administer them in the interest of their students. They would therefore return to being a resource at the service of public interests (as would be normal, given that they are paid by the treasury), rather than tied to the interests of private individuals – candidates for appointment – as is currently the case. Which, even from the point of view of public law alone, would already constitute a significant step forward.

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SCHOOL / AND vacant chairs: only individual schools can solve the problem