Obama To Nominate King for Top Ed Post

President Obama announced his intention to nominate John B. King as secretary of education. King has been acting secretary since the departure of Arne Duncan in December. The nomination requires Senate approval.

Coverage in the Washington Post said the nomination could have bipartisan support in Congress. The newspaper reported that Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chairman of the Senate education panel, has "urged" the president to formally nominate King.

That support comes during a time of transition for K-12 education in the country. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESSA), which became law in December, addressed many regulatory aspects of what the GOP portrayed as an aggressive federal grab of education policy at the expense of states.

"By restoring responsibility to states and classroom teachers, we are unleashing a new era of innovation and excellence in student achievement," Alexander said when ESSA was passed. "In the future, the path to higher standards, better teaching and real accountability will be through states, communities and classrooms and not through Washington, D.C."

Alexander told the Post in an email that King would "receive a prompt and fair hearing." It was important, he added, that the Senate provide confirmation for a member of the president's cabinet, "for proper accountability, especially as we work with the administration on implementing the new law governing elementary and secondary education."

"Since joining the Department of Education, John has worked to build on the progress our country has made in expanding opportunity for all of our children. There is nobody better to continue leading our ongoing efforts to work toward preschool for all, prepare our kids so that they are ready for college and career and make college more affordable," said the president in a prepared statement. "John knows from his own incredible life experience how education can transform a child's future. I look forward to the Senate working in a bipartisan way to confirm John quickly and continuing their work with him to tackle the vital challenges and opportunities that lie ahead."

King joined the Department of Education in 2015 and was delegated the duties and responsibilities of the Deputy Secretary. In that position he oversaw all education policies, programs and strategic initiatives for grades preK-12 as well as department operations.

Previous to that, King served as commissioner in the New York State Education Department, where he bore the brunt of public criticism for an ill-conceived and poorly executed rollout of Common Core learning standards and related online assessments as well as a teacher evaluation system.

King lost both of his parents — career New York City public school educators — to illness as a young child. He credits the support he received from his own teachers for "saving his life" through "transformative educational experiences" and instilling in him a sense of hope. King earned a Bachelor of Arts in Government from Harvard University, a Master of Arts in the teaching of social studies from Columbia University's Teachers College, a law degree from Yale Law School, and a Doctor of Education degree in educational administrative practice from Columbia University's Teachers College. He began his career in education teaching high school social studies in San Juan, Puerto Rico and Boston.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.