Teachers and Educators Urge Voters to Reject Raise Your Hand For Kids Constitutional Amendment

From the Missouri National Education Association
1810 E. Elm St., Jefferson City, MO 65101

For further information: 
Mark Jones
(660) 537-1375

May 25, 2016

Stakes for children are too high to overlook the amendment’s shortcomings

(JEFFERSON CITY, MO) – Charles E. Smith, an English teacher and President of the Missouri National Education Association, announced the 35,000 educators of the MNEA will oppose the Raise Your Hand for Kids (RYH4K) constitutional amendment.

“The stakes for children are simply too high to overlook the constitutional amendment’s shortcomings,” said Smith. “The amendment permits public tax dollars to fund programs at elite private or religious schools. It lacks strong oversight and it places all decisions in the hands of an unelected commission a majority of whom do not have a background in education. ”

The MNEA provided a background fact sheet detailing their concerns about the RYH4K amendment. Concerns they shared with the amendment’s backers over the course of meetings and other communication.

“As educators, we are deeply committed to the success of every child. MNEA educators have a long track record supporting early childhood education. We met with the RYH4K campaign early to share our concerns about the amendment and offer alternative solutions such as collaborating with local school districts and requiring early childhood programs to use proven education techniques. Unfortunately, those suggestions were not incorporated into RYH4K’s amendment,” said Smith.

The 35,000-member MNEA represents teachers, education support professionals, college faculty, retired teachers and students studying to be teachers in school districts and on college campuses throughout the state. It is the Missouri affiliate of the 3.2 million-member NEA.  


Raise Your Hands for Kids Constitutional Amendment
Background Fact Sheet

1) Public Funds to Elite Private or Religious Schools: RYH4K provides an exemption to Article IX, Section 8 of the Missouri Constitution, which explicitly prohibits the distribution of public money to private or religious schools.

ARTICLE IX, Section 8 of the Missouri Constitution:
“Neither the general assembly, nor any county, city, town, township, school district or other municipal corporation, shall ever make an appropriation or pay from any public fund whatever, anything in aid of any religious creed, church or sectarian purpose, or to help to support or sustain any private or public school, academy, seminary, college, university, or other institution of learning controlled by any religious creed, church or sectarian denomination whatever; nor shall any grant or donation of personal property or real estate ever be made by the state, or any county, city, town, or other municipal corporation, for any religious creed, church, or sectarian purpose whatever.”

Raise Your Hand For Kids' proposed amendment, Section 54(b).2, states:
“Distribution of funds under this amendment shall not be limited or prohibited by the provisions of Article IX, Section 8” of the Missouri Constitution.

2) Unelected Commission of Non-experts: The Early Childhood Commission, an appointed not elected body, distributes $300 million dollars of revenue generated by the amendment via grants. Of the 13 commissioners, less than half are required to have any experience in education.

Required to have Education Experience     Non-Educator Commissioners
  1. Designee from Department of Elementary & Secondary Education
  2. Director of Missouri Head Start Collaborative Office
  3. Early Childhood Education and Development provider*
  4. Local Head Start Agency*
  5. Higher Education**
  1. Member of General Assembly
  2. Member of General Assembly (other party/chamber)
  3. Designee from Department of Health and Senior Services
  4. Designee from Department of Mental Health
  5. Designee from Department of Social Services
  6. Business**
  7. Medicine**
  8. Faith Community*

*Appointed by State Board of Education. **Appointed by Governor with Senate Confirmation.

3) Lack of Oversight and Quality Control: The Early Childhood Commission and a small staff are tasked with adequately evaluating thousands of future preschool classrooms spread all across Missouri. As written, these classrooms can exist in basements, garages, storefronts, churches, or in private and public schools. At a minimum, the quality of the educator, the curriculum, the facility, the finances and the safety of each pre-school classroom must frequently be monitored. Quality control will be overwhelming for a small staff and volunteer Commission opening the door for deficiencies and problems.

4) Permanence of a Constitutional Amendment: The RYH4K creates a new tax, establishes a powerful unelected commission, and permits spending of public funds on private or religious education programs. Portions of the proposal are bound to have unintended negative consequences. Because the change is enshrined in our constitution local school boards, legislators, and courts hands will be tied unable to “fix” any damage these unintended consequences may cause. Any errors will require passing an additional constitutional amendment a process that can take years.

Posted Date: 5/26/2016
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