Why This Lone Democrat Opposed Obama’s New Education Secretary
by Leah Jessen
John King Jr.’s leadership of New York’s education department led one Democratic senator to vote against King’s confirmation as President Barack Obama’s pick for education secretary.
The Senate confirmed, with a 49–40 vote Monday evening, King to head the Department of Education.
“John King’s tenure in New York was very adversarial, leaving families, students and teachers without a voice on important issues and therefore I cannot support his nomination at this time,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said in a statement provided to The Daily Signal. Gillibrand was the only Democrat to vote “no” on King’s confirmation.
Four Republican members of the New York State Legislature, Assemblymen Ed Ra, R-Franklin Square; Al Graf, R,C,I-Holbrook; Dave McDonough, R,C,I-Merrick; and Dean Murray, R,C,I-East Patchogue, called on Gillibrand and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to oppose King’s nomination.
“John King’s tenure as the commissioner of education in New York state culminated in disaster for our schools,” Graf said in a statement.
“His lack of experience in the classroom led to policies that resulted in the near-destruction of public education in New York state. He was unqualified and unfit to hold the reins in New York. Why is the federal government now trying to impose his type of failed leadership on education for the entire country?”
King, who served as commissioner of the New York State Education Department from 2011 to 2015, has been criticized by both conservative and left-leaning groups for supporting and implementing Common Core education standards in New York.
“Although most states rolled out Common Core curriculum before testing, John King said time and again that New York could not wait,” Carol Burris, executive director of The Network for Public Education, reported last month. “In 2012, he defended the premature rollout out of the tests, even as teachers complained that they had yet to receive the materials needed to teach the new curriculum.”
In April 2014, the New York State United Teachers called for King’s immediate removal and withdrew its support for the Common Core standards implemented in New York.
“King’s failure to listen to classroom teachers on professional issues had evaporated all confidence in the commissioner’s policies and ability to lead,” the New York State United Teachers said.
“Parents and teachers, standing together on behalf of what’s best for students, have made it clear that ‘enough is enough,’” Richard C. Iannuzzi, then-president of the New York State United Teachers, said in a statement at the time.
“We have had it with top-down decision-making that ignores the voices of parents and teachers, and we’ve had it with a broken ideology that values obsessive testing and data collection over teaching and learning and meeting the needs of the whole child.”
King stepped down from his commissioner position and became a senior adviser to former Education Secretary Arne Duncan in early 2015. King moved on to become deputy secretary and has been the acting secretary since January after Duncan left his position in December.
Of the 49 senators who voted in support of King’s confirmation, only seven were Republicans.