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Clashes over Amendment 3 continue as questions arise over appropriation of funds

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – As polling shows Amendment 3 falling behind, a group supporting the amendment announced a new national endorsement while a group of educators called the amendment a potential slush fund for politicians and private schools.

Missouri Times polling showed Wednesday that more Missourians favor a “no” on the Early Childhood Health and Education Amendment by a 53-40, but with two weeks before election day, both campaigns remain active.

The amendment would raise the cigarette tax by 60 cents over a period of several years and add another 67 cent tax on small cigarette manufacturers to raise funds for early childhood health and education.

Yes on 3 for Kids announced Wednesday that the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives has endorsed the amendment.

“Amendment 3 could not be more important for the future of Missouri’s kids, and for the future of the state as a whole. Study after study shows that children with access to early education programs are more likely to finish school and less likely to turn to crime or end up incarcerated,” said Perry Tarrant, president of the organization. “We should be educating and helping children as early as possible to create better citizens and ensure that every child has the opportunity to meet his or her potential.”

NOBLE joins a coalition of groups supporting the amendment, including the NAACP in Missouri, Associated Industries of Missouri, and several childhood health and learning organizations, among others.

“Amendment 3 has garnered widespread support because Missourians understand our current crisis and the incredible importance of giving kids the best start at life. We are honored to count NOBLE among our supporters,” said Jane Dueker, spokesperson for Vote Yes on 3 for Kids. “High-quality early childhood education gives Missouri’s children the tools they need to succeed in life, and it will pave the way to a brighter future for our entire state.”

But the amendment has also received opposition from several education groups, including the Missouri National Education Association.

MNEA president Charles E. Smith on Wednesday criticized claims that that funds raised by amendment would be protected by a ‘lock box.’

“As educators, we are committed to the success of every student,” he said. “Amendment 3 supporters are not leveling with voters. The funds are at the mercy of politicians and their hand-picked political appointees. There is no recourse to prevent Amendment 3 funds from being spent on politicians pet projects or elite parochial schools.”

Smith said that while most educators support early learning, the amendment has too many faults for MNEA to support.

“MNEA educators have a long track record of supporting early childhood education. However, the stakes are too high to overlook Amendment 3’s shortcomings,” he said.

Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob, the incoming budget chairman, seemed to agree on Twitter on Tuesday that the funds would be subject to appropriation by the legislature.