New York education commissioner John B. King, Jr. — who has been a strong proponent of the controversial set of Pre-K through 12th grade educational standards called Common Core — announced this week that he will resign at the end of the year.
King confirmed that he is stepping down as commissioner in order to take the role of senior adviser to US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the number two position at the US Department of Education.
“As I visited schools, I’ve heard from so many teachers that the students that they had this year were able to do [better],” said King in an interview with the New York Times Wednesday, attributing the progress to Common Core, which is set be fully implemented by the end of this academic year.
King’s resignation comes after Common Core has been under stern scrutiny from politicians for months, critics frequently accusing the initiative of taking autonomy away from local schools in favor of a one-size-fits-all approach. Westchester’s Republican County Executive and 2014 gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino has been a leading critic of the program.
“Unfortunately, Mr. King will be mostly remembered for the disastrous implementation of the common core standards… [we] believe that the commissioner should be elected by the people and local school boards in order for there to be more accountability,” said Phil Oliva, a spokesperson for the Westchester County Executive’s Office, who noted that Astorino will continue to advocate for the abolition of the Common Core standards.
Read more: Why exactly is Common Core controversial?
During his failed gubernatorial campaign this year against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Astorino said on his Web site that “Common Core is destroying our education system and hurting our children.” Astorino successfully gathered over 60,000 signatures for a petition to include a “Stop Common Core” line on which New York voters could cast their vote to voice their disapproval of the education standards. On election day, Astorino received more than the requisite 50,000 votes on the Stop Common Core Ballot line needed to ensure it would remain on New York electoral ballots for four years.
Some teachers have also expressed their disappointment in King’s favoring of Common Core. The New York State United Teachers union (NYSUT) — whose president, Karen Magee, was a Harrison school teacher before being elected the first-ever woman to lead the union — lauded King’s resignation in an open statement released shortly after he officially declared that he would be stepping down.
“NYSUT voted ‘no confidence’ in Commissioner King last spring,” read the statement. “We hope he has learned from his stormy tenure in New York state and look forward to working collaboratively and productively with the Regents to improve public education.”
The State Board of Regents — New York’s 17-member education board responsible of all educational activities in the state — has declared that the identification process for King’s successor will begin next week.