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Backers Submit Signatures For Ballot Proposal To Eliminate Teacher Tenure

St. Louis Public Schools

A group seeking to revamp teacher-hiring in Missouri, including the elimination of tenure, turned in more than 275,000 signatures Sunday to get its proposal on the November statewide ballot.

Called “Teach Great,” the group’s initiative-petition effort has largely been financed by financier Rex Sinquefield.

Among other things, the ballot proposal seeks to base teacher retention on performance-based evaluations and "quantifiable student performance data." It also would end the use of tenure and seniority in determining teacher retention or layoffs.

The group says it turned in far more than the number of signatures from registered voters it will need to get the proposal on ballot. It will be up to the secretary of state’s office to certify the signatures. The secretary of state’s office was unavailable for comment Sunday.

The signatures were collected in six of the state’s eight congressional districts (1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7), as required by law.

“In accordance with the legal procedures required by Missouri’s initiative petition process, Teach Great submitted signatures to Secretary of State Kander’s office today,” said Marc Ellinger, attorney for Teach Great, in a statement. “With the signature gathering phase of the process complete, the coalition is now ramping up efforts to mount a full-scale campaign in support of the measure’s passage.”

Teach Great says its proposed changes would “update state education policy to better reflect modern times and more sensible approaches to hiring and evaluation practices … .”

Teacher groups already have signaled their opposition, saying that the initiative would lead to unfair evaluations that fail to take into account a variety of factors out of educators’ control that can affect teacher performance and student achievement.

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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