According to a recent article in The Australian, education reforms in Australian public schools will lead to school principals being given a great deal more power over budgeting and personnel functions than they had previously been given. Presently, the autonomy of Australian principals varies by state and territory. The shift to devolve power to the school-level come in response to a recognition at by education leaders at the national level that principals require greater decision-making power to respond the demands of increasing school accountability.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I am anxiously awaiting the details of the Obama administration’s proposed reauthorization of ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act). Hopefully, I’m not jumping to conclusions, but recent comments by Sec. Duncan concerning the reauthorization give a school power devolution proponent like myself hope for the future of education reform. In a September 24th speech titled “Reauthorization of ESEA: Why We Can’t Wait,” US Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan made the statement:
Kentucky State Representative Carl Robbins, chair of the House Education Committee, announced to a group of University of Kentucky education faculty and graduate students today that the House Education Committee would hear a bill during the next legislative session proposing amendments to principal selection in Kentucky. Presently, the Kentucky school based decision making statute (KRS 160.345) gives school-based councils the authority to select a new principal when a vacancy occurs. This policy has come under attack by district superintendents who the policy prevents from having a hand in selecting principals. The obvious intent of the statute was to give teachers and parents at the school building level the opportunity to choose a school leader who they believe is best able to meet their school’s unique needs. However, several concerns with the policy have emerged. First, while councils are vested with the authority to select principals, once hired, principals are held accountable to district superintendents who can legally fire them. In some instances, personality mismatches, political differences, or sheer incompetence on the part of the selected candidate have resulted in strained relationships between principals and superintendents. Because councils have varying levels of education expertise and represent diverse interests and ideologies, the reasons for their selecting a candidate may or may not be based on the candidates ability to provide effective school leadership. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, the Kentucky legislature does with the policy.