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Rex Sinquefield Group Fights Teacher Tenure; Will His Ku Klux Klan Comment Pose Obstacle?

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In Missouri, there's a renewed push to end teacher tenure, which supporters say would ensure that the best teachers stay in the classroom. But opponents argue that abolishing tenure amounts to an unfair attack on teachers, and it doesn't help that the initiative's backer, Rex Sinquefield, last year made a controversial comment comparing the public school system to the Ku Klux Klan. Sinquefield, the wealthy investor who has spent tens of millions trying to repeal income taxes, apologized for the comments.

But the KKK controversy might remain a talking point of his critics as the push for a proposed ballot measure to bar teacher tenure moves forward.

"What we are trying to do is really...elevate the teaching profession," Kate Casas, state policy director of the Children's Education Council of Missouri, tells Daily RFT. "That they are able to be promoted and retained in the same kinds of ways that other very respected professions are."

This new campaign against tenure comes in the form of a proposed ballot measure, reported by the Beacon last week. Daily RFT got a copy of the latest version, on view below, which advocates have officially submitted as an initiative-petition to the Missouri secretary of state's office. From there, it has to go through a series of steps and get enough signatures before it appears on a ballot where voters can directly weigh in; that could happen in 2014.

The effort is officially backed by TeachGreat.org, which appears to be a coalition of advocacy groups. As the Beacon reported, the group and ballot initiative is funded by Sinquefield. His attorney connected us with Casas, of the Children's Education Council of Missouri, an advocacy organization that is supporting the campaign and has lobbied for similar legislative proposals in the past.

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Rex Sinquefield.
"We've been, ever since I was in the classroom, huge proponents...of reforming the way that teachers are evaluated and the way those evaluations are used to make decisions," Casas says, "about who is hired, who is able to stay if layoffs are needed."

As written, the proposal says that no school district receiving any state or local tax revenue funding is allowed to enter into new contracts that go beyond three years. In other words, lengthy or indefinite contracts would not be signed going forward.

In Missouri, Casas argues, there are now more effective ways to evaluate teachers based on student progress during the time that teachers are with them -- such that it only makes sense to have a more flexible employment system without rigid contracts.

Referencing more "objective" measures, she says, "Let's use it effectively to protect great teachers from layoffs and to ensure we have the best teachers in front of the classroom."

Continue for more details on the ballot initiative and the full document.

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6 comments
Jay Brandt
Jay Brandt

Sure, then just like corporations, they can lay off the most experienced, but alas also the highest paid in favor of cheaper, but less experienced teachers.

Ryan Stufft
Ryan Stufft

Tenure needs to be restructure nationwide so that it enables institutions to reward those who deserve it and remove those who do not easier. It also needs to be based on performance, contributions to schools and publications that have merit (quality not quantity). Schools also need to remove the red tape (i.e. death by committee).

Peggy Keller
Peggy Keller

Tenure should not be automatic, it should be like it is at Universities where you have to prove that you have done a great job based on pre-set criteria and have to keep that level of professionalism up. If you can do that, then yes, you should be protected from random layoffs. There is something really wrong when any employee who has put in 10-20 years on the job and has a proven track record gets kicked for a cheaper first year employee.

JamesMadison
JamesMadison topcommenter

Tenure is sad excuse for poor teaching skills. Great teachers do not need to worry. Their jobs are safe. Kids and parents love them, and principals would not dare to remove them.

The bad teachers can ruin dozens of children learning progress and nothing can be done to get rid of them. Let's keep the great teachers, remove the poor ones, and make room for new and bright young teachers to fill their places. We will have greater teachers when opportunity for them exist. Removing poor teachers is the answer - at all levels of education.

staceymcm
staceymcm

Thank God someone is paying attention.  What little the legislators are doing about so-called "education reform" is being financially and rhetorically influenced by these outside groups, and Missourians need to be aware of it!  Thanks for bringing this issue to the forefront!

BillyGoatMusic
BillyGoatMusic

@JamesMadison Removing bad teachers is great -but eliminating a teacher's ability to bargain for better job security if he or she is a good teacher doesn't get rid of bad teachers.  Force regulations on teachers, who already are overburdened as it is, is your solution? How about the same thing for administrators?  No indefinite contracts for anyone anywhere ever, that way we'll all be consumed in a sea of red tape every couple of years.  More regulation is not the answer here people. 

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