Noted intellectual Noam Chomsky, author and activist Naomi Klein, and education historian Diane Ravitch are among those urging the U.S. Senate to reject President Barack Obama's pick for the next education secretary, saying the policies he's supported "have been ineffective and destructive to schools, educators, and most importantly students."
Their concerns are outlined in a letter published by the Washington Post on Thursday.
Obama's choice is John King, who's held the position of Acting Secretary of Education since the departure of Arne Duncan. King has already received an "astounding pass" from the Senate education committee last month, as Valerie Strauss wrote in an earlier story for the Post. At the hearings, he "was not asked one single direct question about the tumultuous 3 ½ years he spent as the commissioner of education in New York state. Not by Republicans, and not by Democrats," she wrote.
King's critics have previously pointed out that he was a teacher for a mere three years, has been a fervent supporter of charter schools and high-stakes testing, displayed "autocratic behavior as state commissioner of education [which] spurred a massive parent opt out from state testing," and was hit with the charge of being "responsible for more attacks on public educators than almost anyone else."
The new missive against his holding the position, which was also signed by award winning author Jonathan Kozol, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, and the Network for Public Education, charges, "John King is the wrong candidate and he will follow the failed strategies of Mr. Duncan."
It was penned in great part by 20-year-old Nikhil Goyal, author of the just published book, Schools on Trial: How Freedom and Creativity Can Fix Our Educational Malpractice.
Goyal told Salon that the letter is "yet another sign of the growing resistance in the United States against corporate, neoliberal reform — school closures, standardized testing, and Common Core standards."
He also said,"[King's] agenda is just as terrible and oppressive as the former Secretary Arne Duncan," adding, "This country needs a secretary of education who will help bring some sanity into our classrooms, not a lackey of the corporate machine."
The letter is posted in full below:
To the U.S. Senate,
As educators, students, parents, and activists, we are writing to strongly urge you to reject the confirmation of John King, President Obama’s nominee for the Secretary of Education. We believe he is the wrong choice for the position.
Research and evidence demonstrate that the education policies that John King has supported throughout his career, such as the Common Core standards, the collection of private student information, and high-stakes standardized testing, have been ineffective and destructive to schools, educators, and most importantly students.
As New York State Education Commissioner, he was an unapologetic supporter of the Common Core standards and inBloom. His policies failed. While test scores are flawed metrics, in 2013, just 31 percent of students in New York passed the English and math standardized tests, the first tests to be aligned to the Common Core and in three years the scores have barely budged. The achievement gap grew. Last year, over 200,000 students opted out of the tests.
Educators, parents, and students as well as the state teachers union and other public education advocacy groups called for King’s resignation. His style is inflexible and he is quick to criticize the motives of those with whom he disagrees. He persistently refused to consider the desperate pleas of students and teachers who were reporting that the Common Core and value-added teacher evaluations were not working.
The American public deserves a Secretary of Education who will advocate for their interests, not those of the testing corporations who profit from the Common Core. We also deserve a Secretary who respects the importance of schools governed by communities, not by federal mandate.
Senators should not be misled by vague promises to do better as King offered at a recent hearing. John King is the wrong candidate and he will follow the failed strategies of Mr. Duncan. We strongly urge you to reject his nomination and recommend to President Obama that he nominate a candidate who will bring a progressive perspective to the department as it implements the Every Student Succeeds Act.
Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor & Professor of Linguistics (Emeritus), MIT
Naomi Klein, Award-winning journalist and author
Diane Ravitch, Research Professor, New York University
Jonathan Kozol, National Book Award-winning author
Deborah Meier, Senior Scholar, New York University and 1987 MacArthur Fellow
Jill Stein, Green Party presidential candidate
Lucas Neff, Actor
Karen Lewis, President of the Chicago Teachers Union
Jeff Sharlet, Associate Professor of English, Dartmouth College
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Assistant Professor, Center for African American Studies, Princeton University
Carla Shedd, Assistant Professor of Sociology & African American Studies, Columbia University
Alfie Kohn, Acclaimed author on education
Nikhil Goyal, Author of the book Schools On Trial and Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree
Linda Nathan, Senior Lecturer, Boston University
Steve Cohen, Lecturer, Tufts University
Corey Robin, Professor of Political Science, Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center
Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Professor emerita, Lesley University
Mary Beth Tinker, Free speech activist
Andrew Hartman, Associate Professor, Illinois State University
Henry Giroux, Professor of English and Cultural Studies, McMaster University
Stephen Krashen, Professor Emeritus, University of Southern California
Peter McLaren, Distinguished Professor in Critical Studies, Chapman University
Mark Naison, Professor of History, Fordham University
Robert Buchanan, Undergraduate Faculty, Goddard College
Eva Swidler, Undergraduate Faculty, Goddard College
Lois Weiner, Professor of Education, New Jersey City University
Lawrence Brown, Assistant Professor, School of Community Health and Policy, Morgan State University
Jeanette Deutermann, Founder of Long Island Opt Out and parent
M. Zachary Mezera, Executive director of the Providence Student Union
Israel Munoz, Co-founder of the Chicago Student Union
Carol Burris, Executive Director of the Network for Public Education
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Raynard Sanders, Radio host of The New Orleans Imperative
Howie Hawkins, 2014 Green Party candidate for NY Governor
Brian Jones, 2014 Green Party candidate for NY Lieutenant Governor
Benji Cohen, Doctoral history student, University of Virginia
Brian LeCloux, Wisconsin high school psychology teacher
Doug Henwood, Journalist and NYC public school parent
Liza Featherstone, amNY columnist, educator and NYC public school parent
Julian Vasquez Heilig, Professor of Education, California State University Sacramento
Wayne Au, Associate Professor of Education, University of Washington, Bothell
Jeff Bryant, Associate Fellow at Campaign for America’s Future
Arnold Dodge, Associate Professor/Chair, Department of Educational Leadership and Administration, Long Island University Post
Anthony Cody, Author and educator
Lisa Edstrom, Brooklyn parent and educator
Rita Green, Alaska, Oregon, WA, Seattle/King County NAACP Education Chair
Nancy K. Cauthen, Sociologist
Jia Lee, Educator and 2016 UFT presidential candidate
Julie Cavanagh, Educator and 2013 MORE/UFT presidential candidate
Michael Klonsky, Executive Director at The Small Schools Workshop and educator
Monty Neill, Executive Director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest)
Jason Endacott, Assistant Professor of Secondary Social Studies Education, University of Arkansas
Chris Goering, Associate Professor, English Education, University of Arkansas
Lisa Rudley, Executive Director and Founding Member, NYS Allies for Public Education
Meg Norris, Founder/Director of Opt Out Georgia
Bianca Tanis, NYS Allies for Public Education
Katie Zahedi, NYS Allies for Public Education
The Network for Public Education
New York State Allies for Public Education
Change the Stakes
New York City Opt Out
Save Our Schools
Long Island Opt-Out
Parents Across Rhode Island
Opt Out Georgia
Time Out From Testing
Badass Teachers Association
Network for Public Education Action
Philly Neighborhood Networks
The Opt Out Florida Network
The North Country Alliance for Public Education
National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest)
United Opt Out National
Half Hollow Hills Teachers’ Association
Teaching, Not Testing: A New Narrative for Education
Citizens for Public Schools, Massachusetts