Two U.S. legislators – one from the Senate and the other from the House – made stops in Independence Thursday to speak about a common goal, education.

Two U.S. legislators – one from the Senate and the other from the House – made stops in Independence Thursday to speak about a common goal, education.


Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, spoke at an educational roundtable Thursday morning at Van Horn High School with teachers, students and parents. The stop is one of several she is making throughout the state to discuss education issues and reforms to No Child Left Behind.


Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-5th District, spoke at a town hall meeting Thursday night at Bingham Middle School, sponsored by the Independence Council of PTAs. The event was to also feature state senators and representatives, but because of commitments in Jefferson City, those people were unable to attend. State Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee’s Summit, however, sent a representative.


The topics at both of the events centered around education funding, early education programs and No Child Left Behind.


“Everyone understands we have a deficit, and we have debt. But I get almost uncontrollably upset when I hear my colleagues say that everyone needs to assume some of the pain,” Cleaver said. “Our children had nothing to do with this debt. They had nothing to do with the deficit. But here we are cutting funds for Head Start, cutting Pell Grants and cutting federal funds to education. This country will not survive if education is cut, and this decision will come back to haunt us.”


Cleaver is referring to proposed cuts that would slash funds for Head Start, a program that provides education, health and nutrition services to low-income children. Independence Superintendent Jim Hinson said that loss of funding would be “devastating.”


“We are very concerned about what could happen to the funding,” Hinson said. “It would have a dramatic impact on the services we could provide.”


McCaskill said she believes education, specifically No Child Left Behind, will be the next topic taken before the U.S. Senate. She said she believes the program, which is aimed to hold school districts accountable for student performance, labeling some as failing if certain benchmarks are not met, will be changed drastically or repealed all together this summer. Many schools in Eastern Jackson County do not reach their annual benchmarks or adequate yearly progress because of criteria set for subgroups such as special education and English language learners.


“I have never heard of anyone who is in love with No Child Left Behind,” she said. “It is the wrong way to try to ensure accountability. To assume that one snapshot test is an accurate way to judge teaching and student performance is wrong. It is ridiculous to call some schools failing that are doing a great job of educating our kids. We need to be able to have a discussion of what (an accountability program) should look like and what we want it to do.”