Thursday, January 09, 2014

Here's that announcement...

Robert King out as UW System president finalist 

This from the Wisconsin State Journal:

Robert King is out as a candidate for the job of president of the University of Wisconsin System, leaving Ray Cross and Peter Garland as the only known finalists.

Some on campus and in Madison raised questions about King’s background as a conservative politician in New York and officeholder on the American Legislative Exchange Council, which promotes pro-business, free-market legislation. But he earned praise from at least one Kentucky lawmaker who has worked with him.

Spokeswoman Sue Patrick of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education confirmed Wednesday that King was no longer in the running for the top System job.

Since 2009, King has been president of the Kentucky council and will remain in that job.
“He was very honored to have been considered,” Patrick wrote in an email.

It was not known if King was informed he wasn’t getting the job — a Board of Regents committee was expected to settle on a choice Tuesday at a closed meeting — or if he withdrew before the Regents’ meeting.

The full Board of Regents is expected to meet in closed session late Thursday afternoon and announce its pick after the meeting.

Efforts to reach Cross and Garland on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

King was considered the most unconventional and controversial finalist partly for his background — he’s a lawyer who doesn’t have a Ph.D., as is usual for top academic leaders — but mostly for one line deep in his resume. In describing his tenure as a Republican Assemblyman in New York during the 1980s and early 1990s, King noted that he was a member of a task force on education reform sponsored by ALEC.

ALEC is a group of legislators and business executives that promotes free-market legislation in states. It has faced increasing scrutiny from liberal critics who have decried the group’s practice of lawmakers and corporate sponsors crafting model state legislation behind closed doors.

Derrick Graham, a Kentucky Democrat who chairs the House committee on education, said he understood the concerns about King’s past but found him an effective, moderate leader in Kentucky who did not adhere to conservative ideology. He lauded King for taking a leading role advocating for Common Core academic standards for K-12 schools in the state.

Common Core standards — which cover math and English — were adopted in Wisconsin in 2010 and are in place in 44 other states. Some conservatives have argued that the standards are too weak and amount to a nationalization of education. Teachers and liberals have criticized the standards, too.

“He’s been a strong advocate on issues people on the right advocate against,” Graham said. “He’s worked well with the Legislature here.”

Kentucky has a Democratic governor and a split statehouse. Republicans run the Senate; Democrats run the House.

The news, however, delighted some in academia who raised questions about King’s past.
“Sigh of relief,” said Barry Orton, a longtime UW-Madison professor, on his reaction. “I’m not saying he wouldn’t be a good president, but I think he would be problematic in terms of the university faculty, at a minimum.”

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