John B. King Jr. can drop “acting” from his title after the Senate voted 49-40 on Monday to confirm him as Education secretary.
Among those voting to confirm was Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who said last week that she could not vote for King until she received more direct answers about how he would change the culture of the department, particularly as it relates to the Federal Student Aid office.
On Monday, she said King had committed to a complete review of how the student loan program is administered and would work to ensure military students were repaid by lenders who have been found to have overcharged them for education loans.
“These are serious steps in the right direction,” Warren said. “For that reason I will vote for him today.”
King will have less than a year in his new position, but he will be in control as regulations are crafted for in the 2015 overhaul of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which revised what had been called the No Child Left Behind law and gives the states more power to identify and fix failing schools.
Some Republicans have questioned whether King will give states the level of jurisdiction lawmakers intended when they wrote the law. Heritage Action, which tracked the vote, encouraged senators to vote against King.
The conservative group noted that King was New York state education commissioner during a bumpy rollout of the Common Core standards in 2011. King defended the program even as test scores fell and the anger of parents grew. The state’s largest teachers union called for his resignation.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said he could not support King despite his long career in education.
What matters, he said, “isn’t the job someone has held but the policies they have advanced,” Lee said. “Dr. King is the standard-bearer of No Child Left Behind.”Seven Republicans voted to confirm King.Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of King’s home state of New York was the only Democrat to vote against confirmation.
King’s Republican supporters included Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. Alexander, who initially asked President Barack Obama to nominate someone last December, promising an efficient and fair hearing.
“The reason we’re voting today is because we need an Education secretary confirmed by and accountable to the U.S. Senate so that the law to fix No Child Left Behind will be implemented he way Congress wrote it,” he said.
The vote was cheered by Obama, who said in a statement issued by the White House that King “will continue to lead our efforts to work toward high-quality preschool for all, prepare our kids for college and a career, make college more affordable, and protect Americans from the burdens of student debt.”
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