When I learned that President Obama had formally nominated John King for the position of secretary of education, I was horrified and furious. As a student at Syosset High School during much of King’s reign as New York State’s education commissioner, I saw firsthand the disastrous effects of his policies on my peers, teachers, and community.
In May 2013, I wrote an op-ed for the The Nation detailing why I opted out of the state teacher evaluation tests. These tests were part of the new teacher evaluation system that put an inordinate emphasis on standardized test scores. A few weeks later, I gave a speech at a rally in Albany, where I directed some of my remarks to Governor Andrew Cuomo, Commissioner King, and then-Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch: “We’re coming for you. We’re taking back our children. We’re taking back our schools. We’re taking back public education from your hands and from the hands of corporations, billionaires, Wall Street, and testing companies. Wake the hell up.”
Over the past week, with the help of Carol Burris, the executive director of the Network for Public Education and a veteran principal and educator, and Monty Neill, executive director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (or FairTest; full disclosure: I serve on the board), I put together a letter calling for the US Senate to oppose the confirmation of John King and tell President Obama that he should nominate a candidate who supports equitable and progressive public education, not a corporate school reformer whose policies have been devastating to students, especially poor black and brown ones. I reached out to the leading scholars, writers, educators, and activists to see if they would consider signing the letter. I am humbled that many of my personal heroes, from Noam Chomsky to Jonathan Kozol to Naomi Klein, have endorsed this letter.
The Senate is expected to vote on King’s confirmation on March 9. I am making a crucial plea to all senators, particularly Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, to vote against John King. And I urge you to tweet, call, and email your senator and sign this petition.