Rep. George Miller sent out his final message to the community as a Congressman earlier this week, marking the end of his four decades of service representing Martinez, Concord and surrounding areas. Since he has been a stalwart proponent of education issues, I am reprinting his message below, along with a few of my own impressions of his work on behalf of students throughout the country, as well as here in Contra Costa County.
It is with mixed emotions that I write this final e-mail as a Member of Congress. At the end of this month, I will officially retire after serving 40 years in the House of Representatives.
As I said in January when I announced my plan to retire, I am proud of what I have accomplished and what I have fought for but I am also clear that it is time for me to pursue my passions and interests in new venues. And that is what I will do.
More than anything, however, I will be forever grateful to the constituents of Contra Costa and Solano counties who have been so supportive and engaged in the issues that we have fought for together over the years to improve the lives of children and working families and to protect our environment and open spaces.
I will miss my work in the Congress, without a doubt. Despite the frustrations of a highly partisan institution, it is still a place where every now and then we can turn our values and our ideals into reality.
No issue is a better illustration of that than the passage of national health care legislation in 2010, an issue I fought for from the beginning to the end of my career and that is now improving the lives of millions of Americans and helping our economy.
I have considered it a privilege and an honor to serve you in Congress, whether it was to protect our precious fresh water resources, improve public schools for all kids and their teachers, increase the minimum wage, make our workplaces safer, or preserve our history and heritage through the expansion of national parks.
Thank you for your confidence in me, for your trust, and for your friendship over the years. If you live in the 11th district, I know that your new congressman, Member-elect Mark DeSaulnier, will be ready and able to assist you starting in 2015, just as my staff and I have done all these years.
Best wishes this holiday season and thank you for staying involved in the issues that matter most to you and to our country. Congress is at its best when our citizens are fully engaged.”
Miller has been fully engaged as a Congressman. When he returned home, he frequently visited schools and spoke about education at community gatherings.
I have appreciated his down-to-earth, no-nonsense communication style, tinged with quick wit. He’s approachable, doesn’t dodge questions and isn’t afraid to make bold statements that might not please all of his constituents.
In 2011, he expressed strong support for the controversial conversion of Clayton Valley High to a charter school, which the Mt. Diablo school district opposed.
“I believe that the proposal by the Clayton Valley Charter High School Steering Committee presents an important opportunity for the Mt. Diablo Unified School District to explore alternative educational forums and opportunities in your very diverse and dynamic district,” he wrote, adding that charters done right share feedback with districts that can be mutually beneficial.
“I believe that the Clayton Valley Charter High School Steering Committee proposal has the real potential to be one of the success stories of the public charter school efforts in California,” Miller wrote.
His endorsement gave the school powerful leverage when it sought and received permission from the Contra Costa County Board of Education to convert to independence.
Miller also defends No Child Left Behind, even though he says the law that aims to get every student in the country performing at grade is flawed and needs to be rewritten because of its harsh penalties for schools that fail to meet the strict federal goals.
What do think is Miller’s education legacy?