- Deseret News - Wednesday, October 7, 2015

John King, current deputy U.S. Education Secretary, will replace Secretary of Education Arne Duncan when he steps down in December. King will serve in an acting capacity for the remainder of the Obama administration to forgo the traditional nomination process.

Things to note of King include he was last commissioner of New York state public schools, is a proponent of charter schools, says “he owes his life to public school teachers,” and probably won’t hold the position for long, U.S. News & World Report indicated.

But Slate reported that understanding what King will face as education secretary provides the most vivid glimpse of Duncan’s successor.

For starters, in the year left in Obama’s term, issues like Iran and health care might trump education initiatives, swaying public interest elsewhere. That’s both a benefit and challenge to King, according to Slate.

“King will be left trying to maintain support — and quiet opposition — to education initiatives that were set in motion during somewhat less rancorous times,” Slate’s piece reads. “And he’ll have the benefit, and challenge, of doing that largely outside the eye of national reporters and pundits, whose attention, for the most part, is otherwise engaged.”



King is also a staunch Common Core supporter and has battled teachers unions as commissioner of New York public schools from 2011-14. My colleague Eric Schulzke reported those two qualities led to controversy during Duncan’s time as secretary of education and called from the National Education Association, the largest teacher union in the U.S., for his resignation.

According to The Huffington Post, as commissioner, King “was the one to align the state’s classroom curriculum and high-stakes tests with the benchmarks” of Common Core state standards.

King’s tangles with the New York teachers union also prompted calls for him to resign, U.S. News & World Report’s article stated.

And adversaries made during those “battles” voiced concern in King replacing Duncan.

“We are disappointed to hear that Deputy Secretary of Education John King Jr. will be appointed as the acting secretary,” said Randi Weingarten of American Federation of Teachers, according to U.S. News & World Report. “No one doubts John’s commitment to children, but his tenure as New York state’s education commissioner created so much polarization in the state with parents and educators alike …”

NPR reported despite conflict, that “commitment to children” and King’s experiences in the classroom have helped him garner an impressive base of supporters.

New York State Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch has worked with King, calling him “a true leader.” Tisch told NPR that the new U.S. secretary of education made learning opportunities accessible to students across New York

According to MSNBC, learning opportunities proved crucial for King as a youth. Both of his parents taught at public schools but died by the time he turned 12.

Educators stepped in, he said.

“I moved around family members and schools, but teachers, New York City public school teachers, are the reason that I am alive,” King said, according to MSNBC. “They’re the reason why I became a teacher. They gave me hope about what is possible and could be possible for me.”

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