Educating Young Missourians

As a product of Missouri’s public schools and a graduate of the University of Missouri, Claire is committed to strengthening Missouri's public schools system. She understands a strong educational system is necessary to keep Missouri's economy healthy and competitive, and to continue expanding job opportunities for young Missourians. Claire is passionate about providing our public schools the resources they need and working to ensure a college degree is affordable for all Missourians.

Claire knows that Missouri’s students have struggled due to unworkable federal mandates for elementary and high schools, as well as escalating college costs. Schools have been burdened by rigid testing requirements, and the average cost for one year at a four-year public college or university has nearly doubled in recent years. Claire believes we can and must do better.

Hearing Directly from Missourians

Claire knows that the best way to strengthen education in this country is to gather direct, local input from teachers, students, parents, and members of communities on the ground. So in 2009, she hosted a Student Financial Aid forum which focused on the challenges involved in navigating the financial aid process. Claire organized the forums in anticipation of Congress considering legislation to overhaul the student aid system.

And in 2011, Claire held a series of roundtable discussions throughout Missouri to hear from educators, parents, administrators and students about the need to reform the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law. She conducted a total of sixteen roundtables in rural, urban and suburban communities including: Festus, O'Fallon, Warrenton, Troy, Lebanon, Springfield, Nixa, Willard, Boonville, Fayette, Hardin, Independence, Kansas City, Liberty, Platte City and Columbia. Following her trip, Claire delivered feedback she had collected to the Chairman and Ranking Republican Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, asking the lawmakers to ensure that any new laws include changes that track with Missourians’ concerns.

Investing in Elementary and Secondary 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.

That’s why Claire voted to support the Higher Education Opportunity Act, which included plans to promote early education teacher development. She also cosponsored the bipartisan Education Begins at Home Act to provide parent education programs through state-administered grants.

Claire believes substantial reforms are needed to the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law. Despite its good intentions, NCLB has failed because it used a one-size-fits-all approach to dynamic and complicated problems. Additionally, many of NCLB's mandated programs have been chronically underfunded. Claire believes that reform of NCLB should meet several principles, including:

  • 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.

Claire strongly supports programs in the Higher Education Opportunity Act to provide loan forgiveness to public school teachers after 10 years of service, and efforts to improve teacher quality through mentoring and collaboration. She is also concerned about teacher pay in Missouri, which ranks among the lowest nationwide, and she is looking to achieve greater pay equity for Missouri’s educators.

Additionally, Claire supported the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which was instrumental in saving and creating school jobs in Missouri, especially at the height of the economic crisis in 2008 and 2009. The state received nearly $921 million in Recovery Act assistance through the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund. According to state officials, Recovery Act assistance saved or created more than 8,000 elementary and secondary school jobs in Missouri.

Making College More Affordable

Claire knows that higher education is critical to a healthy and competitive economy. She is working alongside her colleagues to eliminate waste and streamline the student aid process, with an eye toward making a college education affordable for all Missourians.

As the daughter of a World War II veteran, Claire has also fought to make sure America keeps its promise to our men and women in uniform. She was a vocal supporter of the 21st Century GI Bill, which provided the greatest boost to veterans' higher education benefits since World War II. 

In 2007, Claire helped pass into law the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, which expanded eligibility for the Pell Grant program and provided for funding to increase the maximum value of a Pell Grant by more than $1,000 in future years. And in 2008, she supported the Higher Education Opportunity Act, which further expanded eligibility for Pell Grants. The Recovery Act 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.

As of 2014, student loan debt totaled $1.2 trillion, $864 billion of which is backed by the federal government. More than 70 percent of students who graduated from college in 2012 had student loan debt. The average debt for a 2012 graduate from a Missouri university was $23,030. Claire believes that the federal government should ensure that every dollar spent on education is spent effectively. Sweeping student loan legislation that Claire helped pass into law cut the for-profit middlemen out of the student loan business, putting loans directly in the hands of students and their families. This change means billions of dollars cut from the national deficit, more “bang for taxpayers’ bucks,” and a more affordable college education for Missouri students.

And Claire cosponsored legislation to allow individuals to refinance their student loan debt at lower interest rates. The U.S. Department of Education estimates this legislation would benefit 523,000 Missouri students by allowing eligible student loan borrowers to refinance their high-interest federal loans to the low rates offered to new federal student loan borrowers. The bill would also allow eligible students with high-interest private student loans to convert their private loans to government loans. The legislation is fully paid for. Claire said at the time: “For thousands of Missouri’s young people, staggering student loan debt is strangling the economic opportunities that are supposed to come with a college degree - every dollar paid in interest on that debt, is a dollar not invested in a small business or a new home. I personally benefited from student loans when I was in school, and I’ll continue fighting to make sure that every student who works hard gets a fair shot at an affordable college education.”

Protecting Students from Sexual Assault

Claire -a former prosecutor of sex crimes, and nationally recognized leader after her successful campaign to overhaul how the U.S. military handles sexual assaults—has turned her attention to combatting such crimes on college campuses.

Believing in the need to have a firm grasp on “the policies currently in place, and the reality on the ground,” before prescribing policy solutions, Claire has launched an unprecedented national survey of colleges and universities. In the first Congressional inquiry of its kind, the survey of hundreds of schools across the country aims to examine exactly how schools handle rapes and sexual assaults on campuses - specifically focusing on how such crimes are reported and investigated and how students are notified about available services. Claire also organized a series of public roundtable discussions, convening stakeholders from across the country to study law enforcement, Title IX federal civil rights law, and other federal policies including The Clery Act and Campus SaVE Act.

With this information, Claire has begun working with her colleagues to craft legislation to better protect students from sexual assaults, and to hold perpetrators accountable.

Expanding Opportunities for Students with Disabilities

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. 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, the Recovery Act nearly doubled the federal share of that funding in 2009. While this representeds a significant step forward, Claire believes the federal government must do more in order to ensure this vital effort is fully funded and utilized.