A lawsuit has been filed in Cole County Circuit Court asking for a language change on a statewide ballot measure that could be passed in November 2022.
The Missouri public school accreditation and funding initiative would appear on the ballot as a constitutional amendment initiated.
Sherri Talbott, a board member for the North West School District in House Springs, tabled the initiative in August. In early October, Secretary of State John Ashcroft authorized the initiative to collect signatures.
The initiative would amend the Missouri Constitution to prohibit vouchers, tax credits, tuition grants and other funding for non-public schools and establish a uniform method of accrediting public schools. In his lawsuit, which seeks a declaratory judgment, Talbott said the amendment included “many exceptions where public funds could still be used for programs at non-public institutions.”
At the same time as Ashcroft authorized the initiative to collect signatures, Talbott asserts that Ashcroft also certified the language of the ballot title for the measurement which, according to Talbott, “omits a central objective of the measurement and distorts the likely impact of the measure in a way designed to ignite prejudices against it. “
Talbott said the language Ashcroft used would ask voters if they wanted to change the Missouri Constitution to:
• Eliminate opportunities for students with disabilities, students with special needs and economically disadvantaged students by eliminating public funding of non-public elementary and secondary schools through vouchers, tax credits, fee subsidies. school fees and other funding for student attendance and staff employment;
• Limit the influence, power and authority of parents, community members and local school boards by requiring the state school board to implement and oversee a uniform method of assessment and accreditation. for all public elementary and secondary schools that receive public funding, including charter schools.
State government entities expect savings of $ 25 million to $ 50 million per year. Local government entities do not assess costs or savings.
If they remain unchanged, argues Talbott, the two chips compromise the whole measure.
In his lawsuit, Talbott said: “In the first point, the summary fails to inform voters of one of the central and major features of the measure, which is to” preserve general income available for student education. public schools. ‘ This would include, but not be limited to, children with disabilities, children in economic disadvantage and children receiving special education services. Talbott also said the phrase “remove opportunities” did not appear anywhere in the measure.
Regarding the second point, Talbott said there was nothing in the wording of the ballot that mentions school boards, community members or parents or prevents them from getting involved in them. public schools. She added that this incorrectly suggested the measure would expand the scope of the State Board of Education’s already existing power in its statutory duty to assess and accredit school districts.
Talbott asks Judge Cotton Walker to set aside the portion of the summary declaration of the voting record certified by Ashcroft and to replace the declaration with the following:
Do you want to change the Missouri Constitution to:
• Preserve public funding for use in public schools by limiting certain public funding, including vouchers and tax credits for student attendance and staff employment in non-public primary and secondary schools, with exceptions allow five types of public funding for non-public schools, including state charitable tax deductions;
• Require the National Board of Education to implement and oversee a uniform method of assessment and accreditation of all publicly funded elementary and secondary schools.
No hearing date has been set for this case.
Under Missouri law, the number of signatures required to qualify a constitutional amendment initiated for the ballot is equal to 8 percent of the votes cast for governor in the previous gubernatorial election in six of eight congressional districts. of State. Signatures must be filed with the Secretary of State six months before the election.
The smallest possible requirement is 160,199 valid signatures. The deadline for submitting signatures is May 8, 2022.
Once the signatures are filed with the Secretary of State, the Secretary copies the petition sheets and forwards them to the county election authorities for verification. The Secretary of State can choose whether the signatures should be verified by a 5 percent random sample or a full verification. If the random sampling projects between 90 percent and 110 percent of the required signatures, a full verification of all signatures is required. If it is greater than 110%, the initiative is certified, and if it is less than 90%, the initiative fails.