Several Republicans crossed party lines to join Democrats in a Senate vote on Monday to confirm John KingJr. as U.S. Education Secretary, the Washington Postreports.
President Barack Obama applauded the 49 to 40 vote and laid out his education agenda:
“In this role, John will continue to lead our efforts to work toward high-quality preschool for all, prepare our kids for college and a career, make college more affordable, and protect Americans from the burdens of student debt. John knows how education can transform a child’s future. 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.”
One of King’s main challenges will be implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act, signed into law by the president in December, replacing No Child Left Behind.
The new education law shifts much of the authority in education policy from Washington to state capitals and local school districts.
Yesterday’s confirmation vote was a rare display of bipartisanship. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the education committee, encouraged Mr. Obama to submit King’s nomination for a committee hearing. The president delayed nominating King over concerns that Republicans would play politics with his confirmation.
The Washington Post quoted Alexander’s statement to his Republican colleagues:
“This vote is not about whether one of us would have chosen Dr. King to be the education secretary. … We need a United States Education Secretary confirmed by and accountable to the United States Senate so that the law to fix No Child Left Behind will be implemented the way Congress wrote it.”
King, 41, served as acting secretary when Arne Duncanresigned in December 2015. He was orphaned as a child and credited his Brooklyn, N.Y., teachers for saving his life and inspiring him to pursue a career in education. The former teacher and principal served as New York State’s education commissioner.