It’s already old news across New York State that John King is resigning from his post as NY’s education commissioner, effective at the end of the year, to take a position as a top advisor to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. New Yorkers from all corners of the Empire State have been calling for Commissioner King’s resignation for over a year, so I consider the news of his departure from our state a victory.
Truth be told, I will miss Commissioner King. His innate ability to open his mouth and spew retorts that completely sideline the voices of stakeholders in education did wonders to galvanize our (activist) cause. John King simultaneously represents our anger and our resolve to fight back. He has often been photographed at forums across the state where articulate yet angry NY citizens spoke truth to power about the devastating effects they have witnessed in public schools because of the education policies King was hired to staunchly execute and defend. The face of King’s consistently smug, dispassionate, and disinterested responses has become a recognizable symbol of the infuriating and destructive reforms that have ruined public education.
Maybe it’s because I’ve seen the world of education reform just keep getting more and more bizarre over the past two years, with one unbelievable addition after another, that rarely am I surprised anymore. I have to laugh at some of the praise I’ve been reading, like Regent Bennett calling Commissioner King “the best educator I’ve ever met.” This remark by a regent makes it even more imperative that attention must be paid to the NYS Board of Regents, its members, the role they play in state ed. and the thus far lack of transparency in the process in which regents are appointed to the board.
The title of this Peter Cunningham article in Education Post is called “A Great Education Leader Joins a Great Team.” — two mind-boggling, fallacious statements in my opinion. In fact the entire article is a sugar-coated ooze of praise for the great commissioner, using phrases such as “enormous change and progress,” and this giant whopper: “John brings unparalleled credentials, experience in both traditional and nontraditional schools, and extraordinary courage and composure as a leader.” Cunningham must be referring to King’s limited classroom teaching experience in a charter school and the fact that he sends his own children to a private Montessori school. Perhaps the article should be titled “NY Education in Ruins, John King Goes National to Help Duncan Dismantle Public Ed.”
The people of New York, the real stakeholders in public education have a different story to tell, and not all news of King’s departure is filled with praise. This lohud editorial, “Commissioner King’s Tone-Deaf Legacy” is not forgiving of the commissioner’s total lack of response to concerns that have echoed through the state. In this recent statement put out by NYSUT (New York State United Teachers), citing the great disconnect between King’s vision for NY and the cries of concerns coming from public schools’ stakeholders, the teachers union joins the call of other groups such as the New York State Allies for Public Education (NYSAPE) who demand that the Board of Regents select a new commissioner who will be a true advocate for public schools and who will actually listen to public school stakeholders..
King’s legacy of “full steam ahead” education reform policies and blatant ignoring of real concerns expressed by a majority of NY parents, teachers, students, and taxpayers will not be missed. But there is concern for many that such utter incompetence is being rewarded with a promotion to a top position at the federal level. For my part, I am not concerned. United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has already menaced education at the national level with policy pushing that promotes competition between schools and teachers in a test-driven education environment filled with inappropriate standards, narrowed curriculum, ridiculous data-driven accountability measures, and drowning local involvement. While I am appalled that King is moving up, I envision his new position at Arne’s side more like one would see a loyal lapdog at the feet of his master. After all, King is aptly able to perform the role; we’ve seen time and again his inability to utter any original thought that isn’t a direct recitation of Race to the Top policy agendas and Common Core rhetoric. And isn’t that what a master really wants? An obedient servant, a loyal head nodder and yeasayer?
Perhaps King isn’t being “promoted” at all. Maybe the rumors are true that King was forced out by Governor Cuomo. After all, he failed as his primary responsibility to squash the rebellion. New Yorkers are mad as hell over education reforms inflicted on our schools. And we are not backing down. I say let John King move into the ranks of Arne Duncan and Michelle Rhee, two of the most hated individuals associated with education reform. After all, individuals like Michelle Rhee will long be held as symbols of school deform, and will help to galvanize our resolve to reclaim public education long after the so-called legacies associated with their job titles are repaired. Let the anger and uprising that John King helped to foster in New York spread further into the hearts of all Americans across the nation so that our collective purpose to save our schools becomes even more empowered.