The U.S. Senate voted Monday to confirm former New York State Commissioner of Education John B. King, Jr., as secretary of the U.S. Department of Education.
King will run the huge federal agency that drafts, writes, and enforces the myriad regulations that shape day-to-day education in the United States.
King, who has been serving as acting secretary since the departure of secretary Arne Duncan, had a tenure as education commissioner in New York State that was characterized by his avid promotion of the Common Core standards initiative as a tool for social justice and his disdain for its opponents.
The confirmation vote was 49-40, with 11 senators not voting. Those not voting were: Sherrod Brown, Ted Cruz, Jeff Flake, Mark Kirk, John McCain, Rob Portman, Marco Rubio, Bernie Sanders, Jeff Sessions, Pat Toomey, and Mark Warner.
Republican senators who voted to approve King’s nomination were Sen. Lamar Alexander, who heads the Senate committee that oversees education, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, and Sen. Jon Cornyn.
Though the Obama administration is winding down its last year in office, the Washington Examiner reports Alexander said he urged the president to bring forward a nominee because he was anxious to have an education department secretary in place to implement the massive new education law titled the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
ESSA was a pet project of Alexander, a former education secretary under President George H.W. Bush. When the senator from Tennessee assumed the post of chairman of the Senate education committee, he made it clear that passing a new measure to replace No Child Left Behind would be his first priority.
“I’m in favor of moving pretty rapidly,” Alexander said. “I’d like to work with the House and come up with something that the president can sign pretty quickly. We want a result, and under our constitutional system that takes a presidential signature, and … we’ve stayed in touch with him.”
Alexander claims ESSA has gotten rid of federally mandated Common Core in public schools.
“It doesn’t quite matter what Dr. King thinks of Common Core,” Alexander said to King’s critics. “Under the law, he doesn’t have anything to do with it.”
Peter Cunningham, who worked for former secretary Duncan, wrote recently, however, “Under the new law, every state must adopt ‘college- and career-ready’ standards. Thus, the new law all but guarantees that Common Core State Standards–or a reasonable imitation under a different name–will likely remain in place in most states.”
Alexander’s Senate education committee voted to advance King’s nomination by a vote of 16-6.
As secretary of the education department, King will oversee the rule-making process for ESSA, which is slated to go into effect fully in the 2017-2018 school year.
“This new law preserves the federal levers to withhold funds from states or put them on high-risk [status],” King said, according to Education Week, in an address to both the NAACP and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce about ESSA. “And our Justice Department will be leaning in to make sure folks honor their obligation to promote equity.”
In fact, the Justice Department just announced last week that it will be policing schoolyards to “combat religious discrimination in schools and other educational settings” for signs of “discrimination” and “bullying,” particularly toward Muslim students.
The U.S. Department of Education is one that exemplifies the vast expanse of the administrative state in the federal government. In this case, the administrative state consists of unelected bureaucrats who will actually be setting the rules and regulations with which America’s students, teachers, and school districts will be required to comply in their public schools and–even in some cases–private schools.
Conservative senators argued against King’s confirmation, noting his avid support of the highly unpopular Common Core standards and their aligned testing during his controversial tenure as commissioner in New York.
— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) March 14, 2016
“He forced on an unwilling school system an unpopular Common Core curriculum and standards, inflexible testing regimes and a flawed teacher evaluation system,” Sen. Mike Lee said about King.
At Conservative Review, commentator Michelle Malkin wrote last week about King:
Informed parents and teachers inside and outside of New York know King for his tyrannical support of the Common Core racket. In 2013, facing a grass-roots revolt across party lines, he cancelled a series of public forums on the national standards crafted behind closed doors by D.C. lobbyists, Big Business, and front groups.
King sneered at parents and teachers who attended his Common Core dog-and-pony show as “special interests.” After droning on uninterrupted for an hour and a half, King finally allowed two-minute statements from the audience. Parents balked at their kids being used as “guinea pigs” for untested teaching methods; educators challenged Common Core’s assessment-obsessed, one-size-fits-all approach. King petulantly cut off testimony only 20 minutes into the feedback session to filibuster and grandstand–and then proceeded to cancel future forums.
“Stopping Fed Ed starts with ridding the D.C. bureaucracy of its most hostile, unaccountable overlords,” Malkin said.