by Félix Pérez
Claire McCaskill touts her support for Head Start, the school lunch program and college access on her campaign website. Josh Hawley, her opponent, makes no mention of education on his website.
It’s not just what McCaskill’s website highlights that has earned her the support of Missouri educators. It’s her track record while a U.S. senator. Dating to 2013, she’s earned the highest mark possible from the nation’s largest organization of public educators.
Among her high-profile votes was opposing the nomination of Betsy DeVos as education secretary, even though President Trump won Missouri with 57 percent of the vote. McCaskill, unbowed by pressure from the Trump administration, cited DeVos’s support of private school vouchers as the deciding factor in her vote. DeVos was confirmed, but only after an unprecedented tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence.
Explaining her vote, McCaskill said, “Ms. DeVos has focused on one goal when it comes to education—robbing public schools of resources in order to boost private schools,” said McCaskill, a graduate of Hickman High School in Columbia, Mo. “I don’t think she even understands that in rural Missouri, there is no choice of private schools. So her plan would rob rural public schools and shift that money to private schools in more urban areas. That is unacceptable.” She added, “Putting Mrs. DeVos in charge of education in this country is nothing less than giving the back of our hand to rural America.”
McCaskill’s support for rural schools and opposition to DeVos and her school voucher plan are among the reasons she earned an ‘A’ on three consecutive Legislative Report Cards from National Education Association. In addition, she voted against the Trump tax cut plan, which risks $1.6 billion in state funding for Missouri public schools over 10 years and more than Missouri 2,100 educator jobs this year alone.
Her voting record and support for Missouri students, public schools and educators led Missouri NEA to recommend her re-election bid. MNEA’s 35,000 members are teachers, librarians, counselors, coaches, school psychologists and psychiatrists, administrators and faculty in colleges and universities, bus drivers and custodians, teacher aides and paraprofessionals, nurses, school secretaries and food service workers.
McCaskill is running against Missouri attorney general and higher education foe Josh Hawley in a too-close-to-call race. Hawley has come under withering criticism for filing a lawsuit that would eliminate protections for pre-existing medical conditions, including for young adults who opt to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26. Hawley’s campaign has received more than $27,000 from the DeVos family. He has come under fire for claiming in a campaign stump speech that colleges and and universities are “giving students worthless degrees and indoctrinating them in far-left thinking.”
McCaskill’s advocacy for rural schools led her to join a bipartisan effort to restore the Secure Rural Schools Act. The law, renewed by Congress this spring for two years, gives counties with federal forest service land within their borders additional education funding, because federal land isn’t taxable. “Public schools are the beating hearts of our small towns and rural communities in Missouri—and I’m not about to let up in my fight to see them get the resources they need,” McCaskill said.
McCaskill cosponsored legislation to allow individuals to refinance their high-interest federal student 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. “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.”