Florida Bill Would Give More Autonomy to Principals Who Run Struggling Schools
A Florida bill would give select high-performing principals more autonomy, similar to those enjoyed in the charter sector, if they take on assignments to turn around low-performing schools.
State Rep. Manny Diaz, a Republican from Miami who proposed the bill, told the Sun Sentinel that principals needed to be held accountable, but that they also needed more freedom.
"If you envision the principal as the CEO for the building, they have to be held accountable, but in a lot of cases, their hands are tied" he told the paper. "They're not being given what they need."
The bill does not contain additional money for those principals who sign up for the challenge and are successful in turning around the schools—though that could be added later, Diaz told the paper.
As it stands, districts will get about $100,000 to train highly rated principals and a school team through a school turnaround program offered by the University of Virginia. The principals will be expected to work in middle or high schools rated D or F on Florida's school rating system. Up to three districts would be selected to participate in the program.
The schools in the program will be evaluated after three years.
Among the freedoms, principals in the program would be able to hire their teachers and choose instructional materials.
Some districts appeared amenable to the proposal, the paper reported.
A lobbyist for the Palm Beach County school district, which has tried several proposals in the last few years to raise student achievement, said that the district may "have some interest" in exploring the proposal if it makes it to law. Palm Beach, for example, is a "charter school district" a state designation that makes it exempt from some state laws.
And the Broward County Principals Association appeared to welcome the bill. The district already has a similar program underway, which used federal dollars to give both flexibility and bonuses to high-performing principals who take over F-rated schools. The association's representative told the paper that such a move could expand the district's program.