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Educators Sue to Ensure Voters Have All the Facts on Rex Sinquefield’s Extreme Ballot Initiative

Four Missourians with expertise in public education filed a lawsuit against Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander and Missouri State Auditor Thomas Schweich this morning. The lawsuit challenges the ballot and fiscal summary of billionaire extremist Rex Sinquefield’s latest attempt to amend the Missouri Constitution. Sinquefield created controversy last year when discussing an education related ballot initiative, claiming the Ku Klux Klan designed the public school system to ruin the lives of African-American children. [1] In April, a bipartisan majority in the Missouri House overwhelmingly rejected a bill (HB 631) similar to Sinquefield’s initiative by a 55-102 vote.

Filed in the circuit court of Cole County, the lawsuit charges that the ballot summary is unfair and likely to deceive voters because it fails to mention that the constitutional amendment would permit school districts to fire or cut the pay of public school teachers and administrators without cause or due process, and it would create a burdensome one-size-fits all evaluation system mandating additional standardized testing of students.  The suit also charges that the fiscal note fails to include financial analyses provided by local school districts stating Sinquefield’s amendment would cost schools millions of dollars in the first year with substantial on-going costs.

Paul T. Morris, Dana Ruhl, Kathy Steinhoff, and Darryl Johnson, all have extensive education backgrounds and are filing the suit in their private capacity as Missouri citizens. Morris, Ruhl and Steinhoff provided the following statements:

Paul T. Morris, retired teacher, second term School Board President in the Ferguson-Florissant R-II School District:

"Sinquefield’s initiative removes local control of how school districts evaluate teachers. It financially punishes districts for using proven locally developed evaluations. In Ferguson-Florissant, the board, administration, and teachers have developed our evaluations. They are time tested and proven. From my perspective as a school board member, maintaining local control is very important. More high-stakes testing doesn’t lead to accountability, it wastes children’s valuable classroom time on test taking instead of learning. It’s critical the ballot language accurately reflects the harm this ballot initiative creates."

Dana Ruhl, Business Manager Hannibal Public School District:

"This initiative would change the Missouri Constitution by removing local control of how teachers are compensated or laid off.  It creates an unfunded mandate that costs schools millions of dollars without educating a single child – it’s a step backward for our students. It’s important the ballot summary accurately reflects the costs of this initiative and the jeopardy to school district’s funding for failing to comply with unproven top-down mandates. Missourians have a right to know how much Rex Sinquefield’s plan will cost our local schools."

Kathy Steinhoff, National Board Certified Teacher in Columbia, MO and winner of the Horace Mann Teaching Excellence Award:

"One-size-fits-all testing approaches are not good for kids and cost our schools millions. It is time to stand up to special interest groups who are trying to destroy public education. Allowing teachers to be fired without cause takes away all their rights to due process and creates chaos in the schools. Parents have the right to know the real impact of Sinquefield’s plan, and that should be included in the language on the ballot."

Darryl Johnson is a High School English Teacher in Smithville, MO, was Missouri Teacher of the Year 2006-2007, is one of only five teachers in the country being inducted into the National Teacher Hall of Fame next month.

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[1] Priddy, Bob. (2012, February 11. Sinquefield links KKK to public schools, apologizes. Missourinet.http://www.missourinet.com/2012/02/11/sinquefield-links-kkk-to-public-schools-apologizes-audio/.

The ballot language prepared by the Missouri Secretary of State’s website can be found here:http://www.sos.mo.gov/elections/2014petitions/14init_pet.asp#2014024

The fiscal note prepared by the Missouri State Auditor’s office can be found here:
http://www.auditor.mo.gov/Notes/14-024%20web.pdf

The court filing can be found here:
http://www.scribd.com/doc/139257605/Educators-Sue-to-Ensure-Voters-Have-All-the-Facts-on-Rex-Sinquefield%E2%80%99s-Extreme-Ballot-Initiative

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