In response to the diverse deployments of ‘school autonomy’ in interviews with education stakeholders, we use material semiotics and the concept of ontological politics to theorize school autonomy as ontologically multiple. We analyze interviews conducted in Australia with forty-two school education stakeholders drawn from principal, parent and teacher associations as well as policymakers at federal and state government levels, to better understand the diverse deployments of public school autonomy and their political implications. We theorize managerial autonomy, professional autonomy and collective autonomy as three coexisting realities of school autonomy spoken about in the interviews. We examine their differences, the tensions in navigating these realities, and what is at stake in how school autonomy is known and enacted. The analysis suggests a concern among many stakeholders for school autonomy to be known and done differently from the dominant managerial autonomy, which we understand as a call to practise alternatives into existence.