Senate Hearing Today to Nominate John King as Secretary of Education. Another Bipartisan Disaster or A Blessing in Disguise?
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(The hearing will be held at 2 PM EST and you can watch it live here: http://www.help.senate.gov/hearings/nomination-of-dr-john-king-to-serve-as-secretary-of-education. It may be available to view/record on CSpan.)
Senator Lamar Alexander is following through with his 1989 speech at the first National Governors Association meeting and his desire for centralized control of education. Via 2016, he again brings the taxpayers another bipartisan disaster rivaling that of No Child Left Behind (ESSA) and is eager to appoint the acting secretary of education (John King) so King can crack the whip of accountability. These policies are not for academic excellence, rather, they are are policies once again wrapped up in a new law (over 1,000 pages) consisting of carrots and sticks. From Senate committee schedules confirmation hearing for John King as education secretary:
Who is John King? If you are in New York state, you know him as the embattled state superintendent who stepped out of that position due to taxpayer/parent displeasure and into ‘a high level position’ in the US Department of Education. New York’s failed superintendent is now thrust onto all states. How is King handling himself in his new position as acting Secretary? Take a look and see during his recent appearance at the House Oversight Committee regarding the investigation of the Department of Education’s Chief Information Officer (CIO) Danny Harris and Harris’ lack of judgement and numerous legal violations. Both Harris and King are masterful at not answering questions and/or deflection:
- The Department of Education’s (ED) Chief Information Officer (CIO) Danny Harris received substantial bonuses despite poor performance in securing IT systems at the Agency and significant ethical lapses in judgment.
- Despite the IG’s evidence to the contrary, Acting Secretary King asserted that Mr. Harris did not violate any law, regulation, policy, or standard of ethical conduct.
- Mr. Harris testified his home theatre installation and car detailing activities were “hobbies” and not businesses. The IG testified that these activities qualified as businesses.
- It was in excess of two years before ED responded to the IG’s initial report of findings and referral for administrative action.
- The Department of Justice (DOJ) declined to prosecute the IG’s criminal referral and deferred to ED leadership for action. Acting Sec. King deemed verbal counseling and a three-page ethics guidance letter as appropriate consequences.
- On November 17, 2015, the Committee held a hearing to examine:
- The state of information technology at the Education Department;
- Its compliance with the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA), the Federal Information Technology Reform Act (FITARA), and the recommendations of the inspector general (IG).
- During the hearing, the Committee learned the Education Department:
- Holds 139 million unique Social Security numbers;
- Continues to be “vulnerable to security threats” according to the IG, and has repeat findings in annually-required FISMA audits;
- Failed to detect a penetration test of its systems conducted by the IG during its FY2015 FISMA audit;
- Received an “F” on the Committee’s FITARA scorecard.
- Following the hearing, the Committee received additional information concerning conduct of the CIO.
There are more excellent videos at the Oversight Committee link and you can see for yourself the teflon process bureaucrats employ when questioned about serious legal improprieties in their departments. There must be professional development courses for these officials on deflection and lack of accountability: nothing sticks. The video above shows deflection 101 ramped up to upper level course levels. King demonstrates how it’s performed at 4:00. Based on advice of legal counsel….must be a drill and kill exercise phrase in the USDOEd. What is particularly alarming is Chaffetz’s contention that every single metric for cybersecurity has gone down in ranking the Department of Education.
While states/schools are subject to financial penalties for not following/fulfilling accountability set by the USDOEd, its officials don’t apply the same rules to its own employees. They receive bonuses ($220,000) for such behavior:
Senator Alexander is eager to hold a hearing to appoint John King as Secretary of Education. Unless Representative Chaffetz can block his nomination in The House, welcome to yet more of what we’ve experienced with Arne Duncan. But maybe Alexander is actually on to something and King’s appointment will actually work against King as Secretary. This possibility comes from Peter Greene and Curmudgication in Yes! Make King Secretary of Ed!:
So we’re going to have someone who perpetuates reformsters policies, and if we must, I say that John King is a fine choice.
Why? Well, let’s look at some of his accomplishments in New York State.
King helped galvanize such outrage and activism about data mining that a $100 million project supported by Bill Gates was scrapped.
King powered up the largest test revolt in the country, creating an opt-out movement that is now a potent political force in the Empire State.
As often as he said dumb things, Arne Duncan also was able to say the right thing. Let’s be honest– there was a time when we all listened to what he and his boss had to say and thought, “Yeah, that’s right. That sounds good. I think maybe we’re going to be okay.” King (or some USED intern) is already showing an ability to make semi-conciliatory noises, but two things work against him– we know who he is and what he’s supported and until he tells us a story about his trip on the road to education Damascus, there’s no reason to believe anything has changed; and second, he has a proven track record of being a terrible communicator. Say what you like about Duncan (I know I have), but he would never have screwed up the New York “Splaining Tour to the point of cancelling it because he couldn’t handle it.
In the ongoing argument about public education, we pro-public ed folks have had a problem convincing civilians that there’s a problem. We shout and point and holler, “There’s a monster over there!” and they look and they see a reasonably pleasant mild-mannered guy who explains that he’s just looking out For The Children. We try to sound the alarm and end up looking like William Shatner gawking out the airplane window.
But in New York, John King did what dozens of pro-public ed activists failed to do– he got thousands upon thousands of parents and taxpayers to see just how crappy the reformster plan for education was. His tone deafness, his inflexibility, his utter dismissal of other viewpoints, his unwavering focus on barreling right past red flags– all of that had the effect of displaying the reformster agenda in all its ugly unvarnished glory. John King was the emperor who paraded his nakedness without restraint or artifice, and many New Yorkers looked and said, “Damn! Yuck! I finally get it! This is bad stuff.”
Is John King actually what we’ve needed all along? To show the Peter Principle in action and why incompetent bureaucrats exist? They create mindless and vindictive policies securing employment while wielding financial and policy control over taxpayers:
Because incompetence is inevitable, we shouldn’t be trying to fire all the incompetent managers. We’d only replace them with deadwood anyway. And being a social species, we realize these people have families to feed, cars to buy and vacations to take. They’re job-creators, if you will. Peter argued that incompetent people will do the least damage to competent people’s productivity if we maintain the benign illusion that they’re useful and have a bright future.
(The title has been changed as being a nomination for the position for the Secretary of Education)