Tag Archives: Chairman Lamar Alexander

King confirmed as new Secretary of Education

The U.S. Senate voted Monday to confirm Dr. John B. King as the new Secretary of Education. King has served as the acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Education (ED) since the previous secretary, Arne Duncan, left his post in January. King served as Duncan’s highest ranking advisor prior to taking the reins as acting secretary.

The confirmation of King as secretary is especially noteworthy in light of the newly passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA); King will oversee the implementation of the new law. While many in the Republican party expressed concern over King’s policy positions, Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) took to the Senate floor to stress the importance of filling the role. He told senators that it was important to have an education secretary who is  “confirmed by and accountable to the United States Senate” in order to ensure ESSA is implemented as the Senate intended. Alexander also assured the body that under the law King would have no opportunity to push the Common Core standards, which were a hot topic among Republicans during debate.

There was both bipartisan support for and opposition to King’s confirmation. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who represents King’s home state, joined the group of 40 senators, otherwise consisting of Republicans, to oppose his nomination. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) had previously expressed uncertainty with regard to how King would handle policies on student loans and for-profit colleges, but she ultimately joined the group of 49 senators voting to confirm King. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) supported King’s nomination while Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) was not present to vote.

King’s confirmation took place Monday, 25 years to the day after Chairman Alexander was confirmed to serve as Secretary of Education under former President George H.W. Bush. Read more about King’s confirmation hearing in late February here. The HELP committee advanced King’s nomination to the full senate last week.

ESEA conference committee advances reauthorization bill

This morning, after a fairly brief and largely bipartisan markup where lawmakers considered a handful of amendments, the U.S. House and Senate joint conference committee tasked with negotiating language to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) overwhelmingly passed its conference report (or negotiated bill).

While the report has not yet been released in its entirety, an “ESEA Conference Framework Summary” was released and summarizes the report’s content in major policy areas such as accountability, testing, standards, intervention, and educator support. The majority of the report was agreed upon by the chambers’ respective education leaders (House Chairman John Kline, R-MN, and Ranking Member Robert Scott, D-VA, and Senate Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-TN, and Ranking Member Patty Murray, D-WA) who negotiated a “framework” prior to beginning the conference committee work.

The Capitol Building

A handful of amendments were discussed at today’s markup prior to passing the bill. Seven easily passed with bipartisan support, one was withdrawn by its author, and only two were voted down. The amendments that passed would authorize a study to examine changes to formula funding through Title I, review early childhood education programs, establish limits on aggregate time spent on assessments, provide funding for educating teachers on the appropriate use of student data, provide for dual or concurrent enrollment for English language learners, integrate arts in STEM education, and offer funding flexibility to carry out dropout prevention and re-entry programs.The two amendments not adopted by the committee would have created a clearinghouse for teacher evaluation programs and put a cap on funding at the funding level for fiscal year 2016, respectively.

The report was ultimately passed out of the conference committee overwhelmingly by a vote of 39-1. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), who is currently campaigning for the presidency, was the only member of the committee to vote against the measure, and he did so by proxy as he was not in attendance.

Chairman Kline said at the close of today’s meeting that the full report in legislative text form will be available Nov. 30 and that the House will vote on the measure Dec. 2 or 3. Senate leaders did not give a precise date for a floor vote in that chamber, but Chairman Alexander said senators will be given at least a week to consider the report prior to voting.