The following are excerpts from Education Week reporter Erik W. Robelen’s interview with Rep. George Miller, D-Calif.
Q. What do you see as the appropriate federal role [in education]?
Miller: [Federal] money is supposed to make a difference. That money is supposed to bring about an improved outcome. And of course, the big debate is whether or not that is happening. . . . I’m not interested in a national school board, but I think the federal government has tremendous leadership capabilities, especially if you have a president who is really interested in the idea of a first-class education system.
Q. What are some of the key education priorities that you would bring to the committee, either as chairman or ranking Democrat?
Miller: I think it’s about sticking to the core issues. ... It really is about developing a high-quality system, it’s about getting results both in a local school, hopefully getting the results you want with respect to performance, but also getting results with respect to performance in the use of federal dollars. . . . I think you have to keep asking those questions about results, accountability, and high standards. And I think those cut across the entire agenda.
Q. What do you think explains [the failure to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act during the 106th Congress], and are there things that you would do differently?
Miller: This notion of chopping the bill up into a lot of different pieces probably in hindsight wasn’t a great idea. It started out taking parts, you know, this was going to be a bipartisan effort and everybody really rolled up their sleeves and you turned out a bill with tremendous support. And you had [another part of the ESEA] This notion of chopping the bill up into a lot of different pieces probably in hindsight wasn’t a great idea. It started out taking parts, you know, this was going to be a bipartisan effort and everybody really rolled up their sleeves and you turned out a bill with tremendous support. And you had [another part of the ESEA] where [Republicans] said, well this part is really important to us, and we’re going to do it ourselves. And we said, well what is this?. . . . And that started to poison the well. And of course in the Senate they got into pretty serious disputes about which direction they were going to go. ... I think the evidence is that that legislation has really been successful when the committee is working together to hammer out a reauthorization. It’s kind of shocking that we won’t be authorizing it this time.