Teachers File Suit Against Proposed Missouri Constitutional Amendment

A group of four current and former teachers, including one teacher of the year who is about to be inducted into the National Teacher Hall of Fame, have filed a lawsuit against a proposed amendment to the Missouri constitution that has been approved for the 2014 ballot.  The ballot measure, number 2014-024, purports to enshrine teacher evaluation standards in the Missouri constitution.  However, the individuals challenging the initiative claim that the proposed amendment goes far beyond mere evaluation standards, wrests control of schools away from local districts, and places huge financial burdens on every district in the state.

All the details after the jump…

Looking at the text of the petition, it quickly becomes apparent that it is merely the same attempt to remove and deny tenure to teachers that has recently been defeated (twice) in the Missouri legislature.  Instead of the current system where teachers are able to gain some job security after a 5-year probationary period (the longest in the nation), this amendment would make all teachers at-will employees and prohibit districts from offering teachers employment contracts for periods longer than 3 years.  Further, the “majority” of all teacher evaluations will be required to be based on “objective measures,” which is really just a code word for standardized test scores .  Finally, the right to collectively bargain that is protected for all Missouri employees by the Missouri constitution, will be curtailed for teachers, and only teachers, in regards to what input they can have on these evaluation systems.

The opponents of the petition point out that the summary fails to note that this amendment will allow any teacher or administrator to be fired, or have their pay cut, without any due process.  Additionally, the one-size-fits-all standardized testing evaluation procedure will mean that art, PE, and special education teachers may end up being evaluated based on tests that they have no bearing on their subject (an issue that has recently led to a lawsuit against the state of Florida).  Districts won’t have the option of looking for individuals with certain skill-sets or starting innovative or novel programs because they will be forced to evaluate all teachers on this one rubric.

Last but not least, the opponents note that the expense for individual districts will be immense.  In addition to the massive expense of completely overhauling each district’s evaluation system, the mandated evaluation process will require that every teacher and administrator be evaluated every single year.  Multiple districts who supplied fiscal information related to the petition noted that the cost in just the first year could be more than $100 Million, with on-going costs every year after.  The opponents argue that these costs have not been accurately represented in the fiscal note accompanying the petition.

For more information and coverage, see the following:

The Kansas City Star – Missouri school officials sue over education initiative petition

STL Beacon – Educators file suit against ballot proposal that does away with tenure, mandates evaluations

ProgressMissouri – EDUCATORS SUE TO ENSURE VOTERS HAVE ALL THE FACTS ON REX SINQUEFIELD’S EXTREME BALLOT INITIATIVE

The St. Louis American – Sinquefield and local control – of schools

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