Donna Johnson on Jorge Melendez State Board Exit

Yesterday morning, I announced Delaware State Board of Education member Jorge Melendez was taken off the roll call for the board on their website. I reached out to Executive Director Donna Johnson for clarification on his exit. Late afternoon, I did receive a reply from Johnson who did let me know the reasoning behind Melendez’ exit.

Mr. Melendez submitted his resignation from the State Board to the Governor’s office. Mr. Melendez is moving out of state and would no longer be eligible to serve on the Board. As you are aware, the Governor brings forth nominations for the SBE to the State Senate for confirmation, just as is done with several other Boards. During this time when the General Assembly is out of session and the Governor’s administration is coming to an end, it is not uncommon for Governors to choose to leave a vacant seat open so that the next administration may appoint and the next State Senate may vote on confirmation. There are other boards facing this same situation right now and historically it is not an unusual occurrence. I do not have details about the nominations made during the special session on 10/13, but know there was not a nomination for a new member to the SBE made during that session. You would have to address the Governor’s office with respect to any details regarding their process in making this appointment.

Where there is smoke, there’s fire. But none here. Just someone moving on. Good luck to Mr. Melendez with his move and future endeavors in another state. And thank you to Donna Johnson for the response.

Kline, Alexandar & Rokita Try To Get Lemonade Out Of A Turnip With John King

Well that didn’t take long.  United States Secretary of Education John King has been the official Secretary of Education for not even three months and he is already under the Education and the Workforce Committee’s microscope.  The United States Senate should have never confirmed him in the first place.  Why are we dealing with this so soon?  Because John King thinks he is invulnerable based on the arrogant and cocky mindset of those in corporate education reform who think they are perfect and everyone else is scum.  Remember after 9/11, when President Bush said you can’t negotiate with terrorists?  It is the same with corporate education reformers.  You can’t try to get lemonade out of a turnip.  You will only get a headache.

The Every Student Succeeds Act regulation process has begun, but like most of us, we have no clue what is really going on with it.  I have the same problem in Delaware when our “stakeholders” convene on some task force, working group, or committee.  There is no true representation.  It is who they want on these groups.  They want an outcome so they will stack the deck to make sure they get it.  Nothing but smoke and mirrors here folks!  So why are Kline, Alexander, and Rokita having a hissy fit because King did what is in his very nature to do?  Even if you give a snake legs,  it’s still a snake.  You can’t change the character of a person by giving them a title.  If anything, that character becomes a part of the title.

Read the letter below.  King has until June 7th to respond.  Will he?  Even if he does will it change anything?  This is exactly what I predicted would happen.  For some inexplicable reason, the Every Student Succeeds Act was rushed through the US House and Senate with a quick signature by Barack Obama.  It was, as explained in the letter, heavily lobbied… probably too much.  This bill wasn’t about students, it was about corporations.  There is very little in this act that actually helps students.  It may look that way, but far too many states invested the past seven years on Common Core and the state assessments.  They aren’t going to change course now.  Not during an election year.  Kline should have known better, but no, he acted with haste to get King nominated.  What about this clown’s history ever said that was a good idea?

And from the official press release on this:

May 17, 2016 CONTACT: Press Office
(202) 226-9440

Congressional Leaders Raise Concerns with Integrity of ESSA Negotiated Rulemaking

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN)—along with Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Chairman Todd Rokita (R-IN) and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN)—today wrote to the Department of Education to express “serious concerns about the integrity” of the department’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) negotiated rulemaking process. Among other concerns, the letter raises questions related to the makeup of the rulemaking panel, a lack of rural and student representation in the process, and the accuracy of statements made by the department’s negotiators.

First established in 1990, the negotiated rulemaking process was created to bring federal agencies and interested stakeholders together to develop certain new regulations through a framework designed to promote consensus among diverse groups. The Every Student Succeeds Act requires the department to use this process, at a minimum, for regulations on standards, assessments, and the requirement that federal funds supplement, rather than supplant, state and local funds.

To “evaluate the Department’s compliance with negotiated rulemaking requirements and the integrity of the ESSA negotiated rulemaking process,” the chairmen’s letter requests information related to a number of questions, including:

•How the department met a requirement that individuals on the negotiated panel shall include “representation from all geographic regions of the United States, in such numbers as will provide equitable balance between representatives of parents and students and representatives of educators and education officials.”

•Whether the department’s actions in naming panel participants biased the panel’s deliberations.

•Protocols and/or criteria used to determine when a secretary or other high ranking department official will speak to a panel or otherwise participate in a panel’s work, as Secretary King did during the rulemaking process.

•Steps taken to ensure statements made by the department’s negotiators accurately reflect the statute and their role in the negotiated rulemaking process.

•The participation of three outside experts and the process for choosing those experts.

•How the department determined which provisions related to assessments would be included in the process.

Additionally, the letter requests “all documents and communications related to the department’s determination of its legal authority for all regulatory language proposed to the negotiated rulemaking panel.” The chairmen are requesting a response by June 7, 2016.

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:

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,


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.