The U.S. Senate confirmed John B. King Jr. as the U.S. secretary of education by a vote of 49-40 last week.
King had been serving as the acting secretary since the start of this year. He took over from former Secretary Arne Duncan, who had overseen the U.S. Department of Education since 2009.
King began serving as a senior adviser to Duncan at the start of 2015. He previously was the commissioner of education in New York state, where he oversaw the transition to the Common Core State Standards and new standardized assessments. While the state’s EngageNY curriculum, developed for the common core, garnered national praise, the state teachers’ union and other education advocates became vigorous opponents of King’s approach to policy and his relationships with educators.
Speaking in support of the nomination on the Senate floor, Sen. Lamar Alexander, the chairman of the chamber’s education committee, stressed that the new Every Student Succeeds Act significantly curtails the federal role in education policy.
“We need an education secretary confirmed by and accountable to the United States Senate” to ensure that ESSA “is implemented the way we wrote it,” said Alexander, a Tennessee Republican who served as U.S. education secretary from 1991 to 1993.
King’s nomination, however, did get pushback. Before the vote, the conservative Heritage Action Committee urged senators to vote no, and criticized King’s record as New York’s commissioner on issues related to the common core and testing.
Testing opt-out advocates also pushed against King’s nomination in recent weeks, writing in an open letter that “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. “
The only Democrat to vote against King was Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.
A version of this article appeared in the March 23, 2016 edition of Education Week as U.S. Senate Confirms John B. King Jr. as Secretary of Education