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Initiative petitions seek to make ‘equality of educational opportunity’ a ‘fundamental right’

   

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — In a spate of recently filed initiative petitions, one Missourian is looking to alter the constitution’s wording on public school funding.

DeeAnn Aull, the executive director of the Missouri National Education Association, filed six proposed citizen-initiated ballot measures with the Secretary of State’s Office last week. All are related to public education and similar — though there are a variety of provisions sprinkled amongst the proposals.

“The general assembly shall have an affirmative duty to adequately and equitably fund the free public schools established in this article,” the initiative petitions said. They also would prohibit “any appropriations be made, funds expended, or tax certs or other tax expenditures” to benefit private schools. 

The proposals seek to add to the Missouri Constitution “equality of educational opportunity, as described in this section, is a fundamental right.” Some seek to guarantee at least 25 percent of the state’s fund be spent on education and others seek to setup taxpayer-funded preschools. 

Other recently filed initiative petitions seek to increase the amount of electricity generated from renewable sources. In early September, James Owen filed four similar petitions to that effect.

Before circulating petitions for signatures, state law requires groups must first have the form of their petition approved by the Secretary of State’s Office. The office then has 23 days after the formation of the petition is approved to draft ballot summary language. Every proposal received by the Secretary of State’s Office is sent to the Auditor’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office.

Petitioners have until May 3, 2020, to deliver signed petitions to the Secretary of State’s Office. Proposed constitutional changes must be signed by 8 percent of legal voters in any six of the eight congressional districts, which amounts to a minimum of 160,199 signatures. Proposed statutory changes must be signed by 5 percent of legal voters in any six of the eight congressional districts, which amounts to a minimum of 100,126 signatures.

A total of 122 initiative petitions have been submitted to the Secretary of State’s Office. In total, 10 petitions are accepting comments, eight are closed for comment, 46 have been approved to circulate, 41 have been rejected, and 19 have been withdrawn.

This article is part of a periodic update on the initiative petition process. Other stories in the series can be found here.