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Sinquefield Donates $750,000 To End Teacher Tenure

(UPI file photo, Bill Greenblatt)

Financier Rex Sinquefield, Missouri’s largest political donor, has given $750,000 to jumpstart the initiative petition drive for a ballot measure to end teacher tenure.

According to the Missouri Ethics Commission, the money was donated on Christmas Eve to “Teachgreat.org,” the campaign committee set up to oversee the effort.

So far, Sinquefield’s donation appears to be the single largest contribution to any of the dozens of initiative petitions cleared for circulation. For years, Sinquefield has been an outspoken proponent of change in the state’s public school system. He also has some major allies, including House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka.

The“Teachgreat.org” initiative would limit teacher contracts to no more than three years. It also requires “teachers to be dismissed, retained, demoted, promoted, and paid primarily using quantifiable student performance data as part of the evaluation system,” according to the summary on the group’s website.

The initiative also mandates that teachers be allowed to engage in collective bargaining for pay, benefits and working conditions, in an apparent move to appeal to teacher groups. So far, such organizations have been wary of the proposed constitutional amendment.

Sinquefield gave $100,000 to Teachgreat.org this summer.

Roughly 147,000-160,000 signatures from Missouri registered voters would be needed to get a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot. The exact number depends on which six of the state’s eight congressional districts are used for signature collection.

A similar ballot initiative – also backed by Sinquefield -- was proposed for the 2012 ballot, but signature collection was never completed.

This latest contribution sharply increases Sinquefield'stotal 2013 donations to various Missouri causes and candidates to more than $2.5 million, according to the Ethics Commission's tally.

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.