Missouri teacher initiative survives challenge
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
A Cole County judge rejected a legal challenge Tuesday to a November ballot proposal that seeks to tie teachers’ jobs and salaries to the performance of their students.
An attorney for public education groups challenging the measure said he intends to quickly appeal Tuesday’s decision by Circuit Judge Dan Green in hopes of still knocking the proposal off the ballot.
Proposed Constitutional Amendment 3 would require schools to adopt teacher evaluation systems based largely on “quantifiable student performance data” that would be used in decisions about paying and retaining personnel. It would prohibit unions from collectively bargaining over the details of those evaluation systems,
It also would end tenure protections for newly hired staff, who currently qualify for indefinite contracts after working for five years at a public school district. School personnel instead could have contracts of no more than three years.
A lawsuit filed on behalf of two teachers from the Francis Howell School District in St. Charles County asserted the proposed amendment violates the
Missouri Constitution by addressing two topics at once: requiring the evaluation system and limiting the ability to collectively bargain over it.
Green ruled the proposal doesn’t revise more than one article of the constitution and all of the provisions “are related to the same central purpose of controlling teacher employment by school districts.”
Attorney Chuck Hatfield, who represents the teachers and the campaign group opposing the measure, said he plans to ask the Western District state Court of Appeals for an expedited consideration of the case and likely will see whether the state Supreme Court will take it up.
“There are requirements about how the constitution should be amended, and I think in recent years we’ve kind of ignored those,” Hatfield said. “It should be very hard to amend the constitution.”
The Western District appeals court already has arguments scheduled Sept. 12 on a separate challenge to a proposed constitutional amendment authorizing a limited early voting period before future general elections.
A state law that prohibits courts from ordering issues to be placed on the ballot less than six weeks before an election. Some judges have interpreted that to mean they cannot order changes to a ballot measure after that deadline. That would mean changes could not be ordered after Sept. 23 for measures appearing on the Nov. 4 ballot.
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