John King knows that a great school can make the difference between hope and despair for a child. He became a teacher because his life was transformed by the singular power of an amazing teacher.
King has committed his life to making schools better for the most vulnerable children in our nation. For that reason, he deserves our widespread support in his nomination to serve as secretary of education.
He is the first principal to serve as secretary of education. He’s also the first African American and Puerto Rican to serve in the position.
And during a time when education has become mired in contention and politics, John King has shown himself to be a bridge builder—and a mender, too. Not long after he was appointed acting U.S. secretary of education, King spoke to a group of teachers, students and local politicians in Philadelphia and admitted debates around education have become too fractious.
King pointed out:
Teachers and principals, at times, have felt attacked and unfairly blamed for the challenges our nation faces.
All of us—at the local, state, and federal level, the Education Department included—have to take responsibility for the climate that exists. There is no question that the contentious tone has made it harder to have productive conversations.
John King is a vocal advocate for school integration. One of his final efforts as New York state’s education commissioner was a push to use school improvement funds from the federal government to convince well-off families to enroll their children into struggling schools.
Century Foundation scholar Richard Kahlenberg met privately with King and said his interest in school integration is heartfelt.
You have a new secretary of education who is deeply committed to the issue. You have a president who appears willing to expend some political capital toward the end of his term to address issues that are important to him. And you have the backdrop of unrest in a number of segregated urban areas. There’s more focus on this issue than there has been in a long time.
As the department of education continues its work to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act, we need a leader focused on just that: preparing every student for success. He knows from experience how important it is to track educational outcomes, close achievement gaps and focus on college- and career-readiness.
We need leaders who believe in the potential of all children.