President Obama yesterday nominated former New York state Commissioner of Education John King to serve as US Secretary of Education. This is a healthy development, as it’s certainly preferable to have federal departments led by accountable officials rather than unconfirmed caretakers. The nomination reflects a better-late-than-never nod to constitutional order, as it comes nearly six months after former Secretary Arne Duncan announced his impending departure.
I know John King to be a man of character and consider him a friend. He has a remarkable personal biography and has served as everything from a charter school principal to a state education chief. He is a passionate champion for students and I congratulate him on his appointment.
Former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (L) with John B. King Jr. (C) and President Obama in the White House, October 2, 2015. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts.
The confirmation is unlikely to be bumpy or elongated. After all, Senate Republicans have much bigger things on their minds this spring than the question of who will supervise the turn-out-the-lights shift at the Department of Education. At the same time, there is justifiable concern among Republicans about how the Department is handling the implementation of the massive new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), especially given Duncan’s inflammatory remarks on the way out the door and some of King’s recent statements. Both Duncan and King have seemed to suggest a desire to ignore parts of the statute and to imply that the rightness of their cause dwarfs picayune questions of legality.
I do hope the confirmation will shed light on how faithfully King intends to execute the duties of his office and respect the dictates of statute. The concern is that King might instead follow in Duncan’s troubling footsteps. After all, it was Duncan who initiated a regime of “waivers” from federal law that (if not illegal) was certainly lawless, who promulgated an overwrought “gainful employment” regulatory scheme that the courts had to reject, who used the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights to browbeat colleges and threaten school districts in a manner that trampled constitutional protections of due process and notions of circumscribed powers, and who repeatedly denigrated both Congress and elected officials from the other side of the aisle.
The Senate should to use the confirmation hearing as an opportunity to ask King hard questions about Duncan’s record, what he plans to do differently, and the degree to which King will set aside his personal preferences and hew to what ESSA actually says as the Department implements the new law. The Senate should do all it can to ascertain whether King would lead with more humility, wisdom, and appreciation for the limitations of Washington’s role than was the norm during Duncan’s tenure.
Source: New AEI Feed
Obama nominates John King for Secretary of Education