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Deputy Education Secretary John B. King Jr. (L) delivers remarks after being nominated by U.S. President Barack Obama (R) to be the next head of the Education Department in the State Dining Room at the White House October 2, 2015 in Washington, DC. - 

The U.S. Department of Education has a new boss, albeit a temporary one. With the new year, John King, Jr. became Acting U.S. Secretary of Education, after the departure of Arne Duncan. King is a former education commissioner of New York State, and more recently Duncan’s second-in-command.

At a press conference announcing his appointment, King credited teachers with getting him through a rocky childhood in Brooklyn, New York.

“New York City public school teachers are the reason that I am alive,” he said. “They are the reason that I became a teacher. They are the reason I am standing here today.”

But King alienated many teachers during his tenure as education chief in New York. He was one of the first to implement the controversial Common Core standards, while also expanding charter schools and holding teachers accountable for student test scores.

King’s main task now will be implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act just passed by Congress, said Michael Petrilli with the Fordham Institute, an education policy think tank.

“Congress, when writing that law, went out of its way to try to tie the hands of the new education secretary,” Petrilli said. “What we’ll be watching to see is whether John King tries to push up against some of those limitations that Congress set.”

Much of the law’s implementation will happen at the state level, said Michael Hansen with the Brookings Institution’s Brown Center on Education Policy.

“Where I do see King perhaps being more active in the immediate future would be on the higher education side,” he said.

King could push for more transparency at the college level, Hansen said, particularly among for-profit companies. Not that he has much time, with just over a year before a new administration takes over.

 

Follow Amy Scott at @amyreports