As a product of the Missouri public school system and graduate of the University of Missouri - Columbia, Claire is committed to fighting for Missouri's schools. She understands a strong educational system is necessary to keep Missouri's economy healthy and competitive. Claire is passionate about providing our public schools the resources they need and ensuring higher education is affordable for all Missourians.
Missouri's students have struggled with unworkable federal mandates for elementary and high schools, as well as escalating college costs. Schools have struggled to implement rigid testing requirements. Too many students are not reaching graduation at Missouri's high schools. The average cost for one year at a four-year public college or university has increased from $9,032 in 2002 to $14,333 in 2008, a difference of nearly 60 percent. Claire believes we can do better.
Elementary and Secondary Education:
Investment in Early Education:
Claire is committed to providing support for programs, such as Head Start, designed to help children gain the awareness, skills, and confidence necessary to succeed in elementary school and beyond.
In the 110th Congress, Claire voted in support of the Higher Education Opportunity Act (Public Law 110-315), which included plans to promote early education teacher development. She also cosponsored the bipartisan Education Begins at Home Act (S.667), which will provide parent education programs through state administered grants.
Support for Elementary and Secondary Education:
Claire believes substantial reforms are needed to No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Despite its good intentions, NCLB has failed because it has led to a one-size-fits-all approach. Additionally, many of NCLB's mandated programs have been chronically underfunded. Congress will soon have the opportunity to reassess the program during its funding reauthorization. Claire will approach the reauthorization evaluation with the following core principles in mind:
* Determining whether a school is effective should be based upon more than just the students' performance on a single, statewide test;
* A student's growth ought to be measured over time, rather than at a single point in time;
* Instead of punishing low-performing schools, the federal government needs to offer financial resources, technical assistance and other supportive interventions; and
* In order to increase the number of highly qualified teachers in our schools, we must support capacity building programs, increase funding for the professional development of educators, and encourage more teachers to become nationally board-certified.
Emphasize Teacher Recruitment and Retention:
Claire supported programs in the Higher Education Opportunity Act (Public Law 110-315) to provide loan forgiveness to public school teachers after 10 years of service and efforts to improve teacher quality through mentoring and collaboration programs. She is also concerned about teacher pay in Missouri, which ranks 44th nationwide, and is looking to achieve greater pay equity for them.
Additionally, Claire supported the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which has been instrumental in saving and creating school jobs in Missouri. The state received nearly $921 million in ARRA assistance through the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund. These funds helped prevent layoffs in Missouri's schools and provided crucial investments in education infrastructure. According to state officials, ARRA assistance has saved or created more than 8,000 elementary and secondary school jobs in Missouri.
Make College More Affordable:
Claire knows higher education is critical to a healthy and competitive economy. However, the recent economic downturn has made the pursuit of a college degree increasingly difficult for students and parents to afford. Claire is working alongside her colleagues to remove waste and streamline the student aid process, with an eye towards making a college education affordable for all Missourians.
As the daughter of a veteran, Claire has also fought to make sure America keeps our promise to our men and women in uniform. (Read more) She was a vocal supporter of the Post 9/11 Veteran's Education Assistance Act of 2008 (S.22), also known as the G.I. Bill for the 21st Century, which provides the greatest boost to veterans' higher education benefits since World War II.
Increase PELL grants:
Claire supported the Higher Education Opportunity Act (Public Law 110-315), which provided for a long overdue increase in Pell Grants, increasing their value by 25 percent over four years to $5,400 by 2011. Through this legislation, more low-income students will become automatically eligible for aid since the minimum income level will be raised. ARRA also included more than $140 million in increased benefits for Missouri Pell Grant recipients, as well as $3.84 million for grants to colleges and universities to assist with financing work-study programs.
Student Loan Reform:
The Obama administration has proposed expanding the Direct Loan program by discontinuing the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program, a source of wasteful spending. The FFEL program subsidizes banks and private lenders with taxpayer dollars to provide government-backed student loans. In contrast, Direct Loans are distributed directly from the federal government to students.
Shifting entirely to direct lending would save nearly $23.5 billion of federal funds over five years, which could be redirected to provide desperately needed financial aid to more students. Claire continues to study the proposed legislation and has solicited views from stakeholders across Missouri.
Opportunities for Students with Disabilities:
Provide Full Funding:
More than 30 years ago, the federal government mandated that every school provide special education for students with disabilities through the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The mandate included a federal commitment to schools to fund 40 percent of these programs. Although approximately 12 percent of public school students receive special education resources, the federal government has never kept its cost share commitment.
With Claire's support, ARRA has nearly doubled the federal share of IDEA funding for fiscal year 2009, from 17.2 percent to 34.2 percent. While this represents a significant step forward, Claire believes the federal government must do more in order to ensure this vital program is fully funded and utilized.