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Opt-Out Fans Urge Senate to Reject John King’s Ed. Sec. Nomination

By Alyson Klein — March 03, 2016 1 min read
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Acting U.S. Secretary John B. King, Jr.'s confirmation hearing was collegial, substantive, and seemed to foreshadow a swift Senate sign-off for the former New York state chief, who is seeking the job officially.

But not everyone is on Team King. A group of progressives, including leaders in the opt-out movement, sent a letter to the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee this week recommending that its members not confirm King, whose nomination is slated for a vote next week.

The signers include: Noam Chomsky, a retired professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Diane Ravitch, a research professor at New York University; Deborah Meier, a senior scholar at New York University, Karen Lewis, the president of the Chicago Teachers Union; and Monty Neill, the executive director of FairTest.

Here’s the letter, in part:

As New York State Education Commissioner, he was an unapologetic supporter of the Common Core standards and inBloom. His policies failed. While test scores are flawed metrics, in 2013, just 31 percent of students in New York passed the English and math standardized tests, the first tests to be aligned to the Common Core and in three years the scores have barely budged. The achievement gap grew. Last year, over 200,000 students opted out of the tests. Educators, parents, and students as well as the state teachers union and other public education advocacy groups called for King’s resignation. His style is inflexible and he is quick to criticize the motives of those with whom he disagrees. He persistently refused to consider the desperate pleas of students and teachers who were reporting that the Common Core and value-added teacher evaluations were not working. The American public deserves a Secretary of Education who will advocate for their interests, not those of the testing corporations who profit from the Common Core. We also deserve a Secretary who respects the importance of schools governed by communities, not by federal mandate. Senators should not be misled by vague promises to do better as King offered at a recent hearing. John King is the wrong candidate and he will follow the failed strategies of Mr. Duncan. We strongly urge you to reject his nomination and recommend to President Obama that he nominate a candidate who will bring a progressive perspective to the department as it implements the Every Student Succeeds Act.

(You can read the whole thing at the Washington Post’s blog, the Answer Sheet, which wrote about this first.)

So will this work? Probably not. Key Democrats in Congress on education issues, including Sen. Patty Murray of Washington and Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia, the top Democrats on the Senate and House education committees, are in King’s corner. And it seemed like Republicans on the education panel, including Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the chairman, also seem likely to vote for him.