The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions will hold a hearing this afternoon on the nomination of John B. King, Jr., to lead the U.S. Department of Education. King has been Acting Secretary since the beginning of the year and previously served as commissioner of education for New York state. As secretary, he would supervise the rulemaking process for the recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
There is little reason to be optimistic about King. In New York, he embraced Common Core and pressed ahead with its implementation despite a disastrous rollout. When a stop on a statewide speaking tour included harsh criticisms of Common Core, he simply cancelled later stops. Opponents likened his dismissive attitude towards critics to that of former Education Secretary Arne Duncan. President Obama planned not to nominate him for the job at all when Duncan announced his resignation, instead skipping the confirmation process by leaving King in an acting role.
ESSA's Republican sponsors claim that the law restores authority over education to the states and significantly restricts the Secretary of Education. Duncan, however, endorsed the law. He even bragged that "our lawyers are much smarter than many of the folks who were working on this bill," showing the same contempt for legislative prohibitions as he did when pushing Common Core on the states. Senators should press King on whether he takes as expansive a view of the secretary's power as his predecessor did. Based on King's record, the answer is likely "yes," so when it's time to vote on the nomination, the Senate should say "no."