Senator Tom Carper (DE) Explains Why He Voted “Yes” For John King As U.S. Secretary of Education

Tom Carper

The United States Senate confirmed John King as the United States Secretary of Education today in a 49-40 vote.  Both of the Delaware Senators, Tom Carper and Chris Coons voted yes.  Bernie Sanders was one of eleven “not voting”.  Had those eleven voted no this title would have been different…

Last night, Diane Ravitch and the Network for Public Education put out a blitz to have folks email their U.S. Senators to vote no for John King.  I sent my letters to Carper and Coons.  Tom Carper responded today.  His response touched on different facets of education, but in the letter he didn’t commit to which way his vote landed.  But it was obvious he was going to vote yes based on the context of the email…

March 14, 2016

Dear Mr. Ohlandt,

Thank you for contacting my office to express your concerns regarding the nomination of Dr. John King, Jr. to serve as U.S. Secretary of Education. I appreciate hearing from you on this important matter.

As you know, on February 11, 2016, President Barack Obama formally nominated Dr. John King, Jr. as U.S. Secretary of Education. Dr. King currently serves as Acting Secretary of Education, and he holds degrees from Harvard University, Columbia University, and Yale Law School. In addition to serving as Commissioner of Education for the State of New York, Dr. King spent years teaching social studies and helped launch a charter school in Boston, Massachusetts.

I understand your concerns regarding Dr. King pertaining to his tenure in New York. On February 25, 2016, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions held a hearing regarding Dr. King’s nomination. My colleagues on the Committee spent much of the hearing discussing implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the new bipartisan law to replace No Child Left Behind, which was enacted in December 2015. A video of Dr. King’s confirmation hearing is available to watch online at the following link: http://www.help.senate.gov/hearings/nomination-of-dr-john-king-to-serve-as-secretary-of-education

Nonetheless, few issues are more important to me, to Delawareans or to the future of the United States than the quality of our education system and its ability to raise student achievement. As a United States Senator, I feel that the federal government must reform our education system to help our neediest students who are literally being left behind. Ultimately, the government needs to ensure that all students and teachers have the resources to raise student achievement. 

I believe it is important to take a holistic approach when identifying and raising student achievement, starting from birth. As Governor of Delaware, I worked hard to provide a fully funded Head Start to every four-year-old living in poverty. Additionally, I helped establish a comprehensive system of standardized testing and accountability. I also worked to promote professional development opportunities for teachers and school leaders. I believe that this sort of holistic effort is crucial in helping students gain the necessary skills to prepare them for the workforce.

As a former Governor, I also respect the right, in most instances, of our current Chief Executive, and his predecessors, to surround themselves with cabinet members that they believe will best serve their administrations and our country. When I was privileged to serve for eight years as Delaware’s chief executive, I nominated numerous individuals to cabinet positions. During those years, I consistently asked the Senate to give me the benefit of the doubt on nominations so that I could surround myself with the leadership team that I felt would best enable me to keep my commitments to the people of Delaware who elected me.

Now, as a United States Senator, it is my responsibility to carefully consider each nomination by our Chief Executive and to decide whether or not I should consent to those appointments. Having said that, I take seriously my obligation to provide advice and consent on the president’s cabinet-level appointments and have met with Dr. King on his recent trip to Delaware. In considering these appointments, I use criteria that I developed as governor. I look for the nominee to have the following attributes:

  • a sound moral character
  • a strong work ethic
  • be a consensus builder
  • a complete knowledge of the law
  • knowledge and experience in the area of appointment
  • the ability to make difficult decisions with sound reasoning

In closing, I agree with you that the health and well-being of our children should be among our nation’s top priorities. We must ensure that all children are given the tools they need to succeed. Please be assured that I will keep your views in mind should I have the opportunity to consider Dr. King’s nomination for U.S. Secretary of Education before the full Senate.

Thank you again for contacting me about this important nomination. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future about other matters of importance to you.

With best personal regards, I am,

Sincerely,

Tom Carper
United States Senator

Sorry Senator Carper, a lot of the attributes you look for in a nomination do not apply to John King.  If all you know about his tenure in New York is based on the hearings from a few weeks ago, you  have a lot of reading to do!  But he is one of President Obama’s education buddies, along with Arne Duncan, so I’m not surprised.

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