Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, one of Obama’s longest tenured cabinet members, plans to step down in December. In his place, Obama has appointed John B. King Jr. to
serve as acting Secretary in his place. While Duncan has long been criticized for his controversial Common Core initiatives, King is no stranger to controversy either. Between
fights with teacher unions and calls for his resignation when he served as New York state schools chief, King is an interesting choice for Duncan’s replacement.
Duncan’s Unpopular Legacy
Duncan has been criticized routinely for many of his decisions while in office. Teachers and parents alike have not appreciated the single-minded focus on test scores. Whereas before, teachers could not be fired based on student performance, Duncan created a system that did not allow school administrators to discount student test scores when conducting
teacher assessments. As a result, schools spend more hours and more money drilling students prior to testing than ever before. $13.1 billion was spent on test preparation in the 2014-2015 school year. While this has resulted in a national rise in test scores overall, educational experts know that test results are not a direct indication of the quality of
the education children receive.
Duncan’s passion for charter schools has been admired by many, but critics argue funds have gone to waste since there is no standard of accountability for how charter schools spend their funds. Duncan’s office just announced that $157 million in grants will be offered to charter schools, specifically Ohio, where it is a known fact that charter schools have improperly spent at least $27 million over the past 14 years, with less than average educational results.
At the same time, Duncan has made the way for $40 billion in Pell Grants to low-income students who wish to attend college. He also has made plans to take action against for-profit colleges, though no students have reported loan forgiveness as of yet.
King’s History – No Stark Differences to Duncan
As Duncan steps down, Obama’s pick of choice, King, takes over where he leaves off. King has long been a supporter of Common Core and all of Duncan’s initiatives while serving in the educational field. King has realistic experience, teaching social studies in Boston for three years before founding one of the city’s first college preparatory schools, Roxbury Prep. Though his time serving as New York State’s school commissioner was full of turmoil, as he was charged with implementing the Common Core teacher assessment standards and new student testing standards, supporters state King always places the needs of the students acquiring the education first.
At this point, many of those seeking change in the federal education system are expectant 2016 will bring changes, both in how program funding is distributed and who the
next long-term Secretary of Education may be. Obama skirted the formal nomination process by appointing King as acting Secretary, so it seems doubtful his appointment will last
beyond the next election. After that, critics of the current educational standards may find a new hero or they may have new battles to fight.