ST. LOUIS -- Today, U.S. Senate candidate Claire McCaskill unveiled her education plan. As Congress gears up to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) next year, we are faced with a watershed opportunity for Missouri's public schools. The enactment of NCLB greatly expanded the role of the federal government in education, dictating to states like Missouri how they should measure student achievement and the timelines they should use.
Unfortunately, NCLB has failed our schools by substituting local control with a one-size-fits-all system for measuring a school?s success and underfunding our public schools. McCaskill pledged to fight for an education policy that works for Missouri schools, emphasizing returning control to state and local authorities and fully funding public schools that have met achievement goals.
"Missouri students and educators deserve an education policy that works for them," said McCaskill. "Unfortunately, No Child Left Behind, which was designed by Washington bureaucrats, has hurt Missouri schools with its one-size-fits-all standards. If we are going to improve Missouri schools, we need to put education policy back in the hands of Missouri educators and parents."
While NCLB promised to provide our schools with the funding resources they need to succeed and to hold failing schools accountable, President Bush and the Republican Congress have only held up one half of this bargain. They have punished public schools at every chance and failed to deliver the funds they promised. The President Bush's 2007 budget would slash funding for the Department of Education by $2.1 billion, causing a $142.6 million funding shortfall for Missouri and leaving 63,512 Missouri children under served by the education system. McCaskill will fight for full funding of our public schools and hold the Bush administration accountable for their broken promises.
Despite promising a quality education for every child regardless of income or ability, in many cases NCLB is doing the opposite. Because of its inflexible demand for 100% proficiency in math and communications arts and penalties for anyone who falls short, it encourages schools to rid themselves of students who cannot meet the proficiency levels, often hurting low income and minority students disproportionately. Unless NCLB is amended, it will leave behind the students who need our public schools the most. That's why Claire will fight for an education policy that measures schools on individual student achievement and sets realistic goals.
"No Child Left Behind was designed to close the gap between good and bad schools, not widen it," McCaskill said. "By underfunding our public schools and punishing those that cannot meet its standards, No Child Left Behind has prevented resources from getting to the schools and students who need them the most. I will ensure that low-performing schools receive the funding, technical assistance, and supportive interventions they need to improve."
McCaskill also emphasized her commitment to making higher education accessible to all Missourians, since Missouri must have a highly skilled workforce to be able to remain competitive in the global economy. Higher education is at stake in this election. In 2005, Congress and President Bush enacted the largest cuts -- $12.7 billion -- to student aid in history. Coming at a time when the average annual public university tuition in Missouri has risen 75% since 1999, these cuts will further restrict access to a college education.
McCaskill will fight to make higher education more affordable. She supports increasing the maximum Pell Grant from $4,050 to $5,800 this year as well as doubling the HOPE Scholarship tax credit from $1,500 to $3,000 per student. She also will offer student loan relief for teachers and graduates who commit to teach in our underserved public schools in urban and rural areas.
"Offering a quality and affordable college education is the most important thing we can do for our country's future," said McCaskill. "At a time when the Republicans are handing billions of dollars over to big oil companies, it is simply irresponsible to cut funding that would make it easier for our kids to go to college. This is just another example of how Missouri needs new leadership in Washington."
Read Claire's Plan to Support Missouri's Public Schools