Our Opinion: Another effort to change the Constitution

Why should teacher evaluations be a constitutional issue?

If this argument sounds familiar, it’s because we advanced it last Monday in this forum on a different topic – tax policy.

A new proposal to place a constitutional amendment on the statewide ballot was submitted March 15 by Jefferson City attorney Marc Ellinger on behalf of the group, TeachGreat.org.

The proposal is a mixed bag of provisions pertaining to evaluations, tenure, contracts and termination of teachers.

We support some of the concepts and oppose others, but the specifics are not the focus here.

Our quarrel is with the continual and pervasive efforts to amend the Missouri Constitution.

A constitution, like a city charter, is a framework for governing; it is not a Christmas tree on which to hang legislation, executive orders or departmental rule and regulations.

Framers of government, by design, made constitutions difficult to change.

A constitutional amendment requires a vote of the people. In contrast, a law can be changed by legislators.

The difference has prompted misuse and abuse as interest groups increasing seek constitutional amendments to prevent alterations by legislators.

That prompting is reinforced whenever lawmakers alter a voter-approved law, as in the case of Proposition B, a voter-approved animal welfare law later changed by legislators.

To reiterate our point from last week: We understand the reasoning, but cannot condone it.

Amending the constitution and legislating are different procedures.

Regardless of whether we support or oppose an issue, we can only stop the abuse by insisting that proposals be advanced in the proper form.

We must ask whether changing the constitution is necessary – or even desirable.

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