As the ranking Democrat on the Education and the Work-force Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives and now as chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, Congressman George Miller of California has long been at the front lines of education policy. He's worked to increase funding for public schools and make college more affordable for low-income students.
But his biggest impact, surely, was in coauthoring the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001. Eight years and one federal administration later, Miller says he's still proud of the legislation -- but he adds that it's been severely underfunded and mismanaged.
"We made performance at our schools transparent and began to hold schools accountable for their performance," he said in 2007. "But in increasing numbers and with increasing urgency, the American people are telling us that the No Child Left Behind Act is not fair, not flexible, and not adequately funded."
At a recent committee hearing, Miller didn't mince words about the nation's struggling schools. "We aren't just facing a crisis," he said. "The house is on fire."
What is your idea of a perfect teacher?
One that is creative, engaging, and fun.
What was your most memorable school experience?
I had a great time in school. I participated in sports and student government and took shop classes. Our team was horrible, and I don't think we ever won a game.
What was the low point of your school career?
Not feeling engaged in the classroom.
Did you go to public school, or private school?
I went to public schools my entire life, including Diablo Valley College, San Francisco State University, and the University of California at Davis Law School.
As a teenager, where did you fit in your school's social hierarchies?
I don't know what the hierarchies were -- I think I crossed all socioeconomic lines.
What was your favorite subject?
If you could change one thing about education in America, what would it be?
We have to do a better job of improving and supporting our teaching corps. That is one of the main ways we're going to improve education for future generations.
What is impossible to learn in school?
The dangers of relying on mortgage-backed securities (although maybe they should start teaching that now).
What should they teach that they don't teach now?
More hands-on experience.
What did you learn today?
The Taliban was much more involved in Pakistan during the 1990s than we previously thought.
What did you teach today?
I taught middle school students about Congress and how honored I feel to be able to serve there.
What is in your dream lunch box?
Trail mix and a field guide to Yosemite.
If you wrote a textbook, what would it be called?
Keep on Learnin'.
If the prom were tomorrow, whom would you take?
The same person I took before -- my wife, Cynthia.