In discussing this proposed constitutional amendment, one thing needs to be clarified: this is a petition initiative, meaning Missouri’s General Assembly had absolutely nothing to do with placing it before voters. The fact is that of the nine constitutional amendments in the 2014 election cycle, only one, Constitutional Amendment #3, is a petition initiative. The other eight were legislatively referred. Here’s the difference: a legislatively referred amendment has gone through the complete legislative process, a process that begins as either a House Joint Resolution or a Senate Joint Resolution. The proposed amendment then goes to public committee hearings in both chambers before being moved on to open debate in the House and the Senate. A bill can be amended during the committee hearings before it is voted on and passed by both groups. When the entire process is completed, the bill that will become a constitutional amendment is certified by the Secretary of State, and then goes out to the voters. The initiative process, however, has bills taking a completely different pathway to the ballot.
Supporters of the initiative—assigned as Amendment #3—had until May 4, 2014 to turn in a minimum of 157,788 valid signatures in order to place the proposed amendment before voters. Missouri law specifies that these signatures must be obtained from registered voters, equal to 8 percent of the total votes cast in the last (2012) governor’s election. Petitioners in Missouri must collect the required signatures (in this case 157,788) fromtwo-thirds of the state’s congressional district.In the case of Constitutional Amendment #3, supporters submitted 275,900 signatures by the required deadline. Thus, the initiative met all the state’s legal requirements. On August 5, 2014, it was certified by the Secretary of State’s office to appear on the November ballot.
Ballot language of this proposed amendment is as follows:
Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to:
· Require teachers to be evaluated by a standards based performance evaluation system for which each local school district must receive state approval to continue receiving state and local funding:
· Require teachers to be dismissed, retained, demoted, promoted and paid primarily using quantifiable student performance data as part of the evaluation system:
· Require teachers to enter into contracts of three years of fewer with public evaluation districts: and
· Prohibit teachers from organizing or collectively bargaining regarding the design and implementation of the teacher evaluation system?
Decisions by school districts regarding provisions allowed or required by this proposal and their implementation will influence the potential costs or savings impacting each district. Significant potential costs may be incurred by the state and/or the districts if new/additional evaluation instruments must be developed to satisfy the proposal’s performance evaluation requirements.
Supporters of the proposed amendment, an organization called Children’s Education Council of Missouri and their political group,“Teach Great,” called off their campaign in early September, saying that support for this measure was not polling as well as its members had hoped. They issued this statement: “It has become clear that now is not the time to further pursue the ‘Teach Great’ initiative.” The measure will remain on the ballot, though there will not be a group actively campaigning for a yes vote.
Opponents of the measure, that include many education groups, as well as the Missouri Farm Bureau’s Board of Directors, give four major arguments for their opposition to it: 1) the measure would require more standardized testing that, in turn, would cost taxpayers more money, 2) the state education department would tell school districts how to evaluate teachers, tying evaluations to state funding, which would further erode local control, 3)some students cannot make the grade because of social issues outside the classroom, and 4) teachers need protection from extreme levels of scrutiny.
Personally, I am coming out in opposition to the amendment. One reason is because I feel like teachers are being made to take the blame for anything and everything that may or may not be wrong in education. Tying a major part of a teacher’s evaluation and employment to a student’s performance places a teacher in an unfair position, holding a teacher responsible for things oftentimes outside of his or her control. In a perfect world where all students want to learn and have supporting parents who encourage respect and achievement, this amendment might have merit. Unfortunately, in today’s society this is not always the case, and to expect teachers to “fix” society’s failures is not fair to them. More standardized testing doesn’t seem to be the answer either, especially in a time when schools remain underfunded.
What might be a better solution to our school dilemma would be to put more resources into teaching and the classroom and less into the endless educational bureaucracy in Washington and Jefferson City. Amendment #3 isn’t the answer. It is poorly drafted, deeply flawed, wrong for teachers, administrators, school boards, and most of all, it is wrong for kids.