“NO” on Nomination of John King for Secretary of Education

On Monday, the Senate is scheduled to vote on the nomination of John B. King, Jr. to be  Secretary of Education.

As head of the Department of Education, King would be in charge of implementing reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Former Secretary Arne Duncan made it clear that ESSA does nothing to actually reduce the federal government’s oversized involvement in and control over our nation’s elementary and secondary education systems.  During an interview with Politico, Duncan was asked “How do you respond to the notion that you’ve had your wings clipped on your way out the door?”.   Duncan replied:  

“…candidly, our lawyers are much smarter than many of the folks [in Congress] who were working on this bill. There are some face-saving things you give up, some talking points that you give up, which we always do because we’re focused on substance. And we have every ability to implement. That’s all I’ve ever wanted.”

Duncan’s comments were a reflection of the Obama administration’s complete and total disregard for Congress. Given that King served alongside Duncan during the reauthorization discussions and earned the confidence of President Obama, there is no reason to expect the department will be any different with him in charge.  In fact, it only serves to reinforce that due to Obama’s frequent and general lawlessness, the Republican-controlled Senate should stop confirming any of Obama’s non-security related nominees.

While the department’s implementation of ESSA is problematic, there are also significant concerns with King’s background. He was New York State’s Education Commissioner from 2011 to 2014, during which he forced the implementation of Common Core and a stringent testing regime on the students and parents of New York.  During this tenure, he faced massive opposition from the grassroots as well as teacher unions.  Even the liberal-leaning Washington Post, in an article entitled U.S. legislators give Obama’s education pick an astounding pass, reported that:

King’s program sparked the largest testing opt-out movement in the country, with some 20 percent of all students refusing to take the Common Core standardized tests mandated by the state last spring. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), who supported the principles of King’s reform, lost faith in his ability to lead the implementation. King left his job abruptly late last year — with some ‘goodbye and good riddance’ messages, including one December 2014 newspaper editorial titled ‘Commissioner King’s Tone Deaf Legacy’…”

Not only is King an advocate of Common Core and standardized testing, he has shown little to no regard for student’s privacy, advocating for national databases like inBloom.  According to the Home School Legal Defense Association, whose advocacy arm is also opposed to King’s confirmation, inBloom was a “controversial company formed with a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to create a national database of student-specific data.”  In 2013, a NYC Public School Parents blog raised similar concerns, saying that King “seems unable to comprehend how parents’ desire to protect their children’s privacy is rational and to have the right to decide with whom their children’s most sensitive information, including their names, addresses, test scores, disabilities and disciplinary records, is being shared is completely justified.”

Furthermore, during his hearing, King expressed opposition to the widely-praised D.C. voucher program, a federally-funded school choice program with measurable success.  Our nation’s students and parents deserve better than this.

While King has been serving as acting-Secretary, and will most likely continue in that role until the end of the Obama Administration, the Republican-controlled Senate has no excuse for putting their stamp of approval on a Secretary of Education who sides with Common Core over school choice, data-mining over student privacy, and central planning over local control.

Heritage Action opposes the nomination of John King and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.