John King Jr.
NBC Screenshot

President Barack Obama has chosen Deputy Education Secretary John King Jr. to succeed Arne Duncan to oversee the Education Department.

According to NBC New York, King, formerly New York State commissioner of education, was not nominated by the president for his new position, a move that would have required confirmation by the Republican-run Senate. Instead, Obama announced King's appointment at a press conference Friday, which avoids a political clash. 

King, 40, who becomes the youngest member of the president's Cabinet, is already a polarizing figure in New York for his controversial promotion of Common Core within the state’s public school system as education commissioner. Common Core, according to MSNBC, emphasizes critical thinking, problem solving and writing skills and moves away from the traditional memorization and recitation model. Some teachers and teachers-union representatives have argued that adopting this new method of teaching leaves underfunded public schools in poor neighborhoods at a disadvantage.

"The Common Core didn't invent good teaching, nor does it relieve us of the hard work of implementation," he wrote in a letter to New York State Board of Regents, MSNBC reports. "However, the Common Core is the first set of learning standards back-mapped grade by grade from what students need to know and be able to do in college and the workforce."

During the press conference to announce Duncan's resignation and King's appointment, King credited his Brooklyn, N.Y., upbringing and the teachers who supported him after he lost both of his parents (both of whom were teachers) at a young age. King's mother died when he was just 8, and he lost his father at age 12.

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"New York City public school teachers are the reason I am alive," King said. "They are the reason I became a teacher. They are the reason I am standing here today."

He added, "Every child deserves the opportunity I had to have a great education."

Read more at NBC New York and MSNBC.