The Miami-Dade School Board changed on Wednesday the way public school principals are paid in the county, in a rare positive move sponsored by Superintendent Alberto Cavalho.
Local principals are currently paid enormous salaries by unknowing taxpayers, pays ranging between $95,000 and $126,000 a year. Most of the time, such high numbers do not depend on the quality or the importance of the job. With the new reform, all principals will now be paid a base minimal salary, and bonuses will depend on whether a particular school is located in a challenging region or not.
The Miami Herald reports that a principal exercising in an elementary school in Coconut Grove will be paid the lowest salary, while the principal of Homestead High School, serving many kids living under the poverty line, will receive the maximum $125,530.
In addition, Carvalho added that the reform will also index principals' paychecks to student performance, calculated with reading levels. This comes as the state of Florida is forcing new salary rules for public school administrators, who are all to be paid according to student performance by July 2014.
This reform, as simple as it may sound, took two years to be elaborated by the public school bureaucracy. And local leaders are now talking about using the same system for assistant principals.
But the logic of the change is obvious. Principals being paid according to student performance is as normal and natural as waiters receiving tips according to the quality of their services. Throughout the private sector, jobs from corporate executive to web designer are all paid for according to performance.
It is simply astonishing that it took so long for our public school leaders to think of such an idea, especially considering that principals are non-union workers. Back a few years ago, a similar state proposal aimed at reforming teacher pay was fought back by teachers' unions across Florida, notably by coercing students to demonstrate instead of them. The veto of the reform by then-Governor Charlie Crist was one of the major reasons why he left the Republican Party.
It is important to note that Miami-Dade County, despite being one of the worst-managed counties in the country, still offers some of the best students in the nation. While Alberto Carvalho influence is largely seen in Metropolitan Miami, his presence is much rarer in tougher parts of the district. Yet, his leadership has been replaced by a large number of charter, magnet, private schools offering great results in poverty-stricken areas, as well as a growing network in the Florida Virtual School system.
While the principal pay reform is a positive step toward a better education system, it is still an insignificant move, compared to the massive work that alternative education advocates will have to accomplish against the teachers' unions.