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Educators working down to the wire to defeat Missouri Amendment 3

Educators working down to the wire to defeat Missouri Amendment 3

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First thing tomorrow morning, Andrea Flinders plans to send a mass text message to members of the local branch of the American Federation of Teachers reminding them to vote.

“I think we will get a good turnout from our members,” said Flinders, who is the president of the local branch of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and, prior to that, spent 31 years as a teacher in the Kansas City Public Schools.

Since July, Flinders and other educators have been campaigning against Missouri Amendment 3, which would limit teaching contracts to three years and require the majority of teacher evaluation scores to be based on student performance data like standardized tests.

If voters pass Amendment 3 Tuesday, Missouri will become the first state to tie student data to teacher evaluation in its state constitution.

Protect Our Local Schools is a coalition of many of the state’s heavy hitters in education, including the Missouri National Educational Association, the Missouri State Teachers Association and others.

One of the group’s main arguments against the amendment is that it would increase the number and value placed on standardized tests.

“Right now a child starting in third grade takes around 26 standardized tests throughout their academic career,” said Michael Sherman, communications director for the statewide Protect Our Local Schools campaign.

Sherman said if every teacher for every subject at every grade level, beginning in some cases with pre-K, had to be evaluated based on a student’s standardized test score, that number would jump to around 250 tests.

According to a fiscal analysis conducted by the Missouri Association of School Administrators (MASA), a school like Jefferson City High School alone would require 236 different tests for the courses they offer.

Other major issues the coalition sees with the amendment include a concern that it would take control away from local schools, that it uses a one-size-fits-all approach and that it would be costly to implement. In its analysis, MASA estimated that the creation and administration of standardized testing would exceed $5 billion in the first year.

Amendment 3 was placed on the ballot through a petition created by Teach Great, a campaign funded by St. Louis billionaire Rex Sinquefield.

Despite gathering over 275,000 signatures, Teach Great closed its doors in mid-September and ceased promoting Amendment 3, citing a lack of support.

Sherman said that even though they haven’t had to deal with formal opposition for the last month and a half, the campaign hasn’t deviated from its plans.

“This is still on the ballot,” Sherman said. “They’ll read this language on the ballot, and there’s still an opportunity for people to vote yes … We have to make sure that they’re educated.”

On top of what Sherman called potentially misleading ballot language, the campaign is also worried about people actually heading to the polls.

“There is speculation that there is going to be low voter turnout because there’s no big major issue on the ballot,” Flinders said.

While Flinders is confident that volunteer phone banks and other efforts to educate voters have been successful, she said the next two days are going to be long ones.

“Tomorrow and today I’m gonna be nervous about how this comes out,” Flinders said.

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