California lawmaker George Miller, a Democrat who has been deeply involved in education policy efforts for decades, plans to retire from Congress when his term ends at the end of the year.
My colleague Alyson Klein has a thorough write-up of Miller's impact on education issues over the course of a long career. But his efforts to ensure that the needs of students with disabilities were not an afterthought will be particularly missed, said Kim Hymes, the senior director of policy and advocacy services for the Council for Exceptional Children, based in Arlington, Va.
In the recent debate over the renewal of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Miller fought to keep students with disabilities included in state accountability measures in the House bill, Hymes said. In a rare bipartisan bill supporting charter schools that passed in the House a few years ago, Hymes said that Miller also pushed for a provision that said charter schools can't be high-achieving unless they are serving students with disabilities and providing needed supports.
"We have had such a staunch advocate in the room" when policies have been considered, Hymes said. Referring both to Miller and the impending retirement of Sen. Tom Harkin, a Democrat from Iowa, she said they both demonstrated an understanding that students with disabilities "are general education students, first."