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La Educación
Número: (118) II
Año: 1994

The Theory Behind School-Based Management

The concept of local school governance is rooted in the 1978 Constitution which laid the foundation for a democratic Spain. The Constitution functions as an instrument that delicately balances the need for regional autonomy and local citizen participation in governance with the simultaneous need for sufficient centralized control to provide for a necessary degree of national unity. Beltrán refers to this as a quasi-federal structure of government designed to provide for regional autonomy within a unified Spain.16

The regional autonomy came through the creation of 17 Autonomous Communities (Comunidades Autónomas (C.A.)), that were to receive decentralized powers after completing specific constitutionally prescribed tasks.17 By September of 1990, seven Autonomous Communities had acquired decentralized power (competencias) and operated with a significant degree of autonomy— Andalucía, the Canary Islands, Catalonia, Galicia, the Basque Territory, Navarra, and Valencia.

Within the framework of regional autonomy (C.A.), a decentralized educational system was to operate with significant power devolved to the regions with specific decision-making authority delegated to each individual Consejo Escolar, or School Council.

The school-based management model of local school governance was officially initiated with the new Education Law (LODE) promulgated in 1985.18 School-based management is based on the premise that an educational system that relies on democratic practices will produce strong local leadership that, in response to the special needs of students and their communities,19 will improve the quality of education. In practice, SBM calls for each school community: (1) to elect its own governing body, the School Council which (2) elects the school director, who (3) executes a specific program he or she has proposed to improve the quality of education in that school.

School-based management should break up the traditional uniformity of the educational system.20 Within the SBM context, schools should be politically neutral, ideologically unaligned, administratively efficient, economically well supported, and democratically governed.

The school’s decision-making body, the Consejo Escolar, may consist of any given number of people, although proportional representation must be respected. The members are as follows:
  • the principal of the school, who serves as Council chairperson;
  • the chief of academic programs;
  • teachers, making up not less than one-third of the Council membership;
  • parents and students, comprising not less than one-third of the Council;
  • a representative of city government;
  • a school secretary with neither voice nor vote.21
Elections for School Council members are normally held every two years during the first trimester, with a least one month’s advance notice. Voting is secret and can even be done by mail if attendance at the polling place is inconvenient. The School Council is the body that elects the school’s principal from among the teachers. A Council from one school is not permitted to elect a teacher who works in another school.

The principal’s tenure in office is three years with the possibility of being reelected for an additional three-year term. After a principal completes his term in office, he or she returns to full-time teaching in the same school.22

The process of electing school principals is a key component of the school-based management theory for improving the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of the educational system. Traditionally, policy makers in the Ministry of Education and Science made standardized decisions about the needs of schools far from the capital city. Local residents and educators now decide on what to do about the needs of their own schools.

Not unlike candidates for public office, teachers who want to run for school principal must propose a program that outlines the reforms they want to introduce. The proposed changes can cover any, or all, of a range of considerations important to schools, such as student discipline, inservice training, instructional techniques, curricular content, and so forth. The proposed changes must respect the frameworks established by law. Nevertheless, considerable room for reform exists.

Once elected, the school’s principal receives a stipend of US$15 to US$30 per month in most regions. In some cases, stipends can range up to US$500 for large secondary schools. However, the principal must continue to teach at least 50 percent of the time. If there are no candidates for the position, a teacher from the school is appointed for a one-year term by a higher administrative authority at the province or Autonomous Community level.23

The School Council has authority and responsibility over, the following tasks:
  • to elect the school’s principal, and to recommend the appointment to higher authorities;
  • to ask from higher authorities the dismissal of the school’s principal, if deemed necessary;
  • to adhere to established law and policy to decide on student admissions;
  • to approve and evaluate the general school program developed annually by the school’s principal;
  • to approve and oversee the school’s budget;
  • to approve the rules for the internal running of the school;
  • to serve as a disciplinary tribunal for major student offenses;
  • to establish guidelines for extracurricular activities (e.g., cultural, sports, field trips);
  • to renew the school’s equipment;
  • to supervise the administrative and instructional activities of the school.24
The next section of this paper identifies and analyzes some of the main forces that significantly influenced Spain’s efforts to introduce administrative development and democratic governance at the local school level during the first seven years of the program.