Mar 15 2016
WASHINGTON — Alabama’s U.S. Senators on Monday voted against President Barack Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Education, with Senator Richard Shelby expressing concerns that he will “advance the Obama administration’s liberal agenda in our classrooms.”
Obama nominated John King, who has been serving as acting Secretary of Education since January.
King is a graduate of New York public schools who went on to attend Harvard University. He became a teacher and co-founded Roxbury Preparatory Charter School in Boston. He later became New York’s education commissioner, where he oversaw the state’s implementation of Common Core and developed a controversial student data warehouse, before taking a job as senior adviser at the U.S. Department of Education.
“John knows how education can transform a child’s future,” said President Obama. “He’s seen it in his own life. And his experience, counsel, and leadership couldn’t be more valuable to me and to our country as we work to open the doors of opportunity to all of America’s children.”
The Senate confirmed King by a vote of 49-40. Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, who chairs the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, through which King’s confirmation had to run, broke with his party to help King get confirmed.
“This vote is not about whether one of us would have chosen Dr. King to be the education secretary,” Alexander saidon the Senate floor. This is about having an education secretary who is “confirmed by and accountable to the United States Senate so that the law to fix No Child Left Behind will be implemented the way we wrote it.”
Senator Shelby adamantly opposed King, specifically citing his support for Common Core.
“Today I voted ‘no’ on President Obama’s nomination of John King to be the next Secretary of Education,” he said. “King is an adamant supporter of Common Core and I fear that he will work to advance the Obama Administration’s liberal agenda in our classrooms. I strongly oppose Common Core because I believe that education decisions should be made at a local level.”
Common Core remains a hot-button issue around the country. In King’s home state of New York, over 20 percent of public high school students opted out of the state’s tests as a form of protest against Common Core.
Alabama leaders have wrestled with the standards for several years now, but they remain in place under the name “Alabama College and Career Ready Standards.”
Senator Shelby’s public opposition to Common Core dates back to 2014 when he told Yellowhammer in an interview that he “would be very wary of Common Core for the simple reason (that) sooner or later you’re going to have a federal mandate, probably enforced through the Department of Education all across the country. You don’t know what it’ll lead to.
“It sounds good, you know, in an abstract way — we’ve got to have the basic courses for everybody in America,” he continued. “But in America, we’ve run our schools overall for 200 years locally and statewide. At the end of the day our children will compete with all of them. If they’re in New Hampshire or if they’re in California or in Alabama, they have to compete. But I believe the local people ought to decide.”