Lottery proceeds would be set aside for school construction and principal raises under a proposal state Senate budget and finance leaders announced Thursday.
The bill proposes to change the way school principals are paid, part of an intricate new compensation system. Principal salary schedules would eliminated, and pay decisions would be in the hands of superintendents. No principal would get a pay cut, but their bosses would decide on their raises.
The bill proposes setting aside $75 million for 80 counties to use for school building construction and repair. The counties eligible for the money are in the bottom two tiers of the three-tier state system that measures economic distress. The county designations change each year.
The poorest counties would have to give a dollar of their own money for every $2 from the building fund. Counties in the middle tier would provide a dollar-for-dollar match. No county would get more than $10 million a year, and no more than $100 million would come out of the fund each year.
Many schools in poor counties are old and falling apart, the senators said. The counties cannot afford to raise money on their own to fix them, and their condition hurts business recruitment, they said.
“They are in desperate need for repair and replacement,” said Sen. Harry Brown, a Jacksonville Republican and budget writer. “That’s the main piece of this, to try to help these counties.”
A portion of lottery revenue is already set aside for school construction in all counties, but Brown said the rural counties don’t get much of it.
The bill would put in a place a vastly changed plan for paying school leaders.
Under the proposal, the state would add $13.7 million to a pot to pay principal salaries, the equivalent of 7 percent raises. Lump sums would be handed to the districts, with the superintendents deciding how much to give each principal.
All principals would receive $2,600 bonuses. In addition, principals in low-wealth counties would be eligible for up to $5,000 in bonus money, earned in $1,000 increments and based on five criteria such as exhibiting strong leadership and leading a school where student academic growth exceeded expectations.
During the break between legislative sessions, a legislative committee considered ways to improve pay for assistant principals and principals, because average salaries are near the bottom of national rankings. The committee talked about strategies that would keep good principals in poor counties and low-performing schools.
For assistant principals, $4.1 million in lottery funds would go to making sure they are paid 13 percent more than teachers.
The proposal also would increase the lottery advertising budget from 1 percent to 2 percent of lottery revenue. The legislature has considered and rejected increasing the cap on lottery advertising over the last few years. Senators said it was going to happen sooner or later.
“I think it’s a matter of time, honestly, that that’s going to happen,” Brown said. “We just think we’re getting ahead of this and using the money where we think it’s needed most.”