John King was nominated for the position of secretary of the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in March, replacing former DOE head Arne Duncan.
Forty-nine senators voted in favor of confirming King and 40 voted “no.”
Opposition to King’s confirmation did not originate from conservatives alone; it also came from many liberal Democrats, who have expressed their opposition to King’s disdain for free speech, his support for Common Core-aligned testing, and his mismanagement of New York’s schools during his tenure as the New York State education commissioner.
Support for King came from both sides of the political spectrum. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, said King would fix broken federal education policies.
“We need an Education secretary confirmed by and accountable to the Senate, so that the law that 85 of us voted for to fix No Child Left Behind can be implemented the way we wrote it,” Alexander said during King’s nomination hearings.
Apparently, Alexander was ignorant of King’s track record of bypassing laws and public opinion to accomplish his education agenda, or perhaps Alexander chose to ignore that record.
Opposition from Liberals
In March, Washington Post writer Valerie Strauss outlined King’s record in a news article, prefacing it with a parade of progressive education leaders’ open-letters opposing a “yes” vote on King, which included a damning summary of his record in New York.
“During that tenure, King led a series of highly controversial school reforms that included a new teacher evaluation system using student standardized test scores that critics say is nonsensical, for example, art teachers were evaluated by student math test scores,” Strauss wrote for the Washington Post. “His oversight of the implementation of the Common Core standards and aligned Pearson-designed standardized tests was considered such a disaster that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo wrote in a letter to top state education officials that ‘Common Core’s implementation in New York has been flawed and mismanaged from the start.'”
Strauss says a significant number of New York parents opposed King’s education policies.
“King’s testing policies led to the creation of an opt-out movement in New York, in which 20 percent of test-takers statewide sat out the tests this spring,” Strauss wrote.
Opposition from Parents
In March, the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) alerted its conservative-leaning supporters about King’s record.
Mike Smith, HSLDA’s president, encouraged his organization’s members to express their concerns about King’s opposition to parental involvement in the education process and his support for Common Core policies in an e-mail to supporters.
“King is one of Common Core’s staunchest advocates and a firm believer in the power of educational bureaucracy,” King wrote. “During his time as New York’s education commissioner, from 2011–14, King repeatedly shut down important political discourse, particularly involving discussions related to whether New York should adopt Common Core. King canceled town hall meetings, limited comment time for parents and educators, and called concerned protestors ‘brainwashed.'”
King’s Appointment Will Protect Common Core
King’s promotion will stall states’ efforts to extricate themselves from the Common Core web, Smith says.
“Promoting King to U.S. secretary of education will have a negative effect on the progress states have made away from Common Core since Arne Duncan’s resignation,” Smith wrote. “An outspoken proponent of student data tracking, King is known for his support of failed data hubs, such as inBloom, which compromise the safety and privacy of personal student information. Parents and educators should be concerned for his possible data-tracking policies at a national level.”
Uniting Against Bad Ideas
Nominating King shows Obama is politically tone-deaf. Over the years, Obama has said he wants to find points of agreement between the left and right. The opposition from both sides of the aisle against King’s nomination, shows finding agreement is possible, though not in the way Obama meant it.
Joy Pullmann ([email protected]) is a research fellow on education policy for The Heartland Institute. An earlier version of this article first appeared at http://news.heartland.org/newspaper-article/2016/03/15/john-king-new-us-education-secretary-despite-bipartisan-opposition/. Reprinted with permission.
“Education Secretary Nominee John King Confirmation Hearing,” C-SPAN: http://www.c-span.org/video/?405068-1/education-secretary-nominee-john-king-confirmation-hearing/, February 25, 2016