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Education

Missouri Amendment 3 Campaign Closes Down For Good

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Teach Great, the Rex Sinqufield-backed campaign to drastically change the way teachers are evaluated in Missouri, has shut down.

Last week, late in the day on Sept. 9, Teach Great spokesperson Kate Casas issued a statement saying the organization would not pursue the Amendment 3 campaign. She said that instead Teach Great would embark on a statewide listening tour and that it looked forward to working with elected officials on other grassroots efforts.

Instead, she now says, Teach Great is closing its doors for good.

"We realized after traveling around the state, doing surveying, that this was not the right time to deal with this issue," says Casas.

Amendment 3 is a darling of conservatives in Missouri.

It would do several things. First, it would limit teacher contracts to no more than three years. It would also prohibit teachers from negotiating any classroom evaluation system. And the thing that probably galvanized the opposition: it would require that teacher’s pay and retention to be based primarily on student performance data.

And that has not set well with a range of educators in Missouri.

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Rex Sinqufield

"It’s about taking away that local control. It’s about an evaluation system that would overly burden local school districts both financially and from a time stand point," says Dr. Bill Nicely who is superintendent of the Kearney, Mo., school district.

He says the state already requires student achievement to be factored into evaluations for teachers and administrators.

But as soon as educators saw they were up against Rex Sinquefield, the millionaire conservative activist from St. Louis, they organized.

According to campaign finance records with the Missouri Ethics Commission, Sinquefield has personally sunk $1.6 million into Teach Great, which has been campaigning for Amendment 3 since January 2012.

Teach Great, according to campaign finance records, has spent $1.4 million. About $1.1 million of that was spent with a company called National Petition Management from Brighton, Mich., who gathered signatures all around the state to get Amendment 3 on the November ballot.

"I don’t think it was a waste of money. It’s an important issue. We certainly were able to talk about the issue. We worked out what we think was really some good language for a constitutional amendment," Casas says.

Teach Great abandoning the campaign and closing down took everybody by surprise.

"Absolutely I was surprised. A lot of money was spent by one individual to put this amendment on the ballot. He spent a lot of money," says Donald McFarland who was hired to run the campaign opposing Amendment 3.

Protect Our Local Schools is a coalition of almost every major education association in Missouri. The Missouri School Board Association, the Missouri National Education Association, The Missouri Association of School Administrators are all members.

Even though Sinquefield and Teach Great have abandoned the campaign, Amendment 3 is still on the ballot.

McFarland admits, he’s worried and his campaign will press forward.

"You know, we’ll be writing letters to the editor. We’ll be talking to editorial boards across the state. We’ll have some TV. You’ll see all of the elements of a campaign that your would ordinarily see because it’s that serious."

If Amendment 3 fails in November chances are the changes it calls for will resurface.

Sinquefield could try to push those through the legislature or he could try once more to change the constitution.

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