Look, let's just stop calling it the Department of Education, because Duncan does not lead a team of educators, and US public education is not their concern.
Let's call them what they are-- the Department of Privatizing Education. DOPE.
John King is just the latest addition, and his entry to the department is emblematic of how the department is now run.
It's not just that he has zero public education experience. It's not just that he was so remarkably awful in New York, with everything from pre-determining the failure rate for NY testing to refusing to meet with parents when they insisted on expressing opinions and speaking even when they hadn't been spoken to. It's not just that he's one more reformster whose clear priority is gutting public education and selling off the parts to privateers. It's not even that he managed to get the union to give him a vote of No Confidence.
This much is just business as usual at DOPE, where appointments are made based, not on educational qualifications, but on business resumes. His hiring represents one more step away from a government model toward a business model.
In government, people fill particular jobs. They need to get approval to fill those particular jobs. And they have a set of duties that go with that particular job. But in business, you can get hired just for being you. When Warren Buffet calls up Bob's Investment Hut and offers some help, Bob doesn't worry about whether he has an opening-- he just hires Buffet for being Buffet. Being hired for just being you also means your track record doesn't matter-- you may have failed at every undertaking you've ever undertaken, but if your cronies believe you're a Good Person from the Right Background, as God is your witness, you will never be hungry again (call it the Rhee Effect).
It is exactly the sort of oversight-free non-accountable model that DOPE likes, where Important People can just hire and fire whoever the hell they like because, hey, they're Important Businessmen. So now, in a move that allows them to skirt any kind of review, discussion, or accountability, they've hired John King to be John King. What will his job be, and how will he be held accountable for doing it (or not)? Shut up, taxpayers-- that's none of your business. Accountability is for peons; Important People should not be tied down by that sort of foolishness.
DOPE is not a government agency. It is not an organization devoted to maintenance and support of a public good. It's a business outpost, and its business is privatizing education. Viewed in its proper light, DOPE's hiring of the clueless, hapless, experience-free, public school unfriendly John King makes perfect sense. Even the use of Shakira as a celebrity spokesperson (yes, that was a thing) makes an odd sort of sense. Duncan's DOPE is only confusing if you expect them to behave like a government agency tasked with preserving and supporting American public education, but that makes as much sense as expecting PepsiCo to behave like a government agency devoted to promoting good nutrition. Just think of John King as the new Special Attache for Fatty Foods.
(Meanwhile, he'll be replaced by the NY regents-- the same folks who gave Ted Morris a charter because his paperwork looked just fine.)