Massachusetts Public Schools Initiative (2012)

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The Massachusetts Public Schools Initiative did not make the November 6, 2012 general election ballot in the state of Massachusetts as an initiated state statute. The measure was filed by Louis A. Rizoli, Esq. and was assigned initiative number 11-20. The proposal was described as a "petition for an act promoting excellence in public schools."[1]

Specifically, the measure would have made performance the main factor in deciding whether or not to retain teachers, effectively eliminating tenure. Additionally, the proposal required the implementation of a process of evaluating teachers across the state. Sponsors of the measure stated that their efforts were to increase teacher quality. However, opponents countered that the proposal was too complicated for a single ballot question.[2]


The following is information obtained from the supporting side of the measure:

  • Stand For Children Executive Director Jason Williams stated at the time that the statewide ballot proposal would "ensure that every child in every classroom across the Commonwealth is being led by an excellent teacher."
    • Williams later commented in January 2012 about a lawsuit filed against the measure challenging its constitutionality: “We believe the attorney general did her due diligence and made the right decision in moving the ballot initiative forward."[2]


The following is information obtained from the opposing side of the measure:

  • Paul Toner, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, who filed a lawsuit against the measure: “This is not a simple yes or no ballot question, like asking whether you should pay an extra nickel on a bottle return. There are so many moving parts to this initiative that no voter will be able to understand it in a short period of time."[2]
  • According to Richard Hebert, a Scituate School Committee member: "I believe in local decision-making. I believe in letting towns and their teachers hammer out the guidelines for reducing staff. This one-size-fits-all approach is dangerous and simplistic and infringes on the autonomy of towns and ignores the special circumstances each community faces."[2]
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  • Tom Gosnell, president of the state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, stated at the time that the legislation could do more harm than good, stating: "What is important is to have in place an excellent evaluation system. If we have in place an excellent evaluation system, of the issues that Stand raises, 99 percent will be taken care of, and we're committed to having it in place. [If the measure passes] it will throw a monkey wrench into the system. It would cause chaos and confusion."[3]


See also: List of ballot measure lawsuits in 2012

Flynn, et al. v. Martha Coakley and William F. Galvin

A lawsuit, submitted by the Massachusetts Teachers Association with the Massachusetts Supreme Court, was filed on January 21, 2012 against the proposal. The lawsuit complained that the proposal was in violation of the state constitution because it dealt with too many components that are unrelated. The legal challenge would void Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley's circulation certification, and therefore would not allow Massachusetts Secretary of State William F. Galvin to place it on the ballot.[4]

Brad Puffer, a spokesman for the attorney general, stated about the lawsuit and the initiative certification process: "We make our decision to certify ballot initiatives based purely on the facts and the law and without regard to the attorney general’s policy view on the issue. As we do with all petition decisions we work cooperatively with parties who wish to challenge our rulings. The most important thing is to get the right result."[2]

Path to the ballot


In Massachusetts, each of the ten original signers of the proposed measure must obtain certificates of voter registration from the board of registrars or election commission in the city or town where they are registered voters. The certificate of voter registration must be signed by at least three registrars. These certificates and the original petition must then be submitted to the Massachusetts Attorney General.

Once the petition is found acceptable, the Attorney general will prepare a summary and return it and the petition to the petitioners, who must file the petition and summary with the Massachusetts Secretary of State. Once that is submitted, petitions are printed and circulation can begin.

Circulation and submission

Backers needed to collect 68,911 signatures by November 23, 2011 and needed to turn them into local registrars. Signatures were filed by that deadline, according to reports, by supporters. Validated signatures were then returned to supporters, who had until the December 7, 2011 petition drive deadline to turn those signatures in to the Massachusetts Secretary of State's office. Supporters turned in those signatures by the deadline.[5]

Those signatures were deemed valid, leaving the proposed law to be sent to the Massachusetts General Assembly for consideration, since the measure is an indirect initiated state statute.

The proposal was filed with the Massachusetts Legislature by Massachusetts Secretary of State William F. Galvin as signatures were verified before the start of 2012.[6]

Second signature gathering phase

The general assembly has not yet chosen to make the proposal a law, however, the lawmaking body was still working on a compromise to avoid a ballot question campaign.[7][8]

According to reports, the deadline for the state legislature to pass the compromise bill was July 3, 2012.[9]

The Massachusetts AFL-CIO and the Massachusetts chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, who were opponents of the legislative compromise, dropped their opposition on June 20, 2012, lending a potentially easier enactment of the bill, according to reports.[10]

On June 21, 2012, the Massachusetts State Senate passed the compromise bill, sending it to be considered by the Massachusetts House of Representatives to be considered. Reports stated that the measure was not placed on the ballot, but it was unclear if a compromise bill was reached.[11]

See also