Missouri ballot to feature teacher evaluation plan

Tuesday, August 5, 2014 | 3:09 p.m. CDT; updated 3:46 p.m. CDT, Sunday, August 31, 2014

JEFFERSON CITY — An initiative proposing a new teacher evaluation system will go before Missouri voters in November, after the state's top election official confirmed Tuesday that it had received enough petition signatures.

The measure would limit tenure protections for public school staff and require that employment decisions such as promotions, salaries and layoffs be based largely on student performance data.

The initiative will be labeled as proposed Constitutional Amendment 3. It's November ballot certification came on the same day that Missourians were voting in August primary elections on a variety of other proposals, including higher transportation taxes and the creation of new constitutional rights for farmers, gun owners and cellphone users.

The school initiative is sponsored by Teach Great, an organization that has been financed by retired investor and political activist Rex Sinquefield, who had tried unsuccessfully to advance similar ideas in the Legislature.

In the coming weeks, supporters plan an "inclusive discussion with Missourians about the importance of rewarding and protecting good teachers (and) supporting struggling teachers," Teach Great spokeswoman Kate Casas said.

Starting in July 2015, the measure would require public school districts to adopt evaluation standards that rely on "quantifiable student performance data" to guide decisions on promoting, demoting, firing and paying personnel. The measure also would limit future teaching contracts to three years, curbing the current tenure system, which provides teachers with long-term job security.

A coalition of school personnel opposes the proposal, saying it could have "devastating effects" on public schools.

"This top-down mandate would shift local control away from parents, teachers and school districts, while implementing unfunded, statewide standardized tests," said Paul T. Morris, a school board member from the Ferguson Florissant School District.

To make the ballot, Missouri initiatives must get enough registered voters' signatures to equal 8 percent of the votes cast in the previous gubernatorial election in at least six of the state's eight congressional districts.

Secretary of State Jason Kander said the teacher initiative met that mark. He said a separate initiative proposing a six-week early voting period failed to meet the threshold, getting enough signatures in just two congressional districts.

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