Dr. John B. King, Jr. will begin serving as acting Secretary of Education when incumbent Arne Duncan steps down in December. Previously Dr. King served as New York’s Education Commissioner, where he championed Common Core and fought the teachers unions. Dr. King is a polarizing figure among teachers and parents, many of whom are not pleased with his promotion.
Secretary Duncan, one of the longest-serving members of the Obama cabinet, said his replacement has “a record of exceptional accomplishment as a life-long educator” and President Obama commented on Dr. King’s “commitment to preparing every child for success in a more innovative and competitive world.” While few repudiate Dr King’s dedication to children, the teachers unions have expressed their displeasure with his appointment. NYSUT had called for then-Commissioner King’s resignation multiple times, and the American Federation of Teachers announced their disappointment with his promotion. Unions criticize Dr. King’s “obsession” with testing and teacher evaluations, as well as his staunch support for charter schools.
Dr. King is the founder and has been the administrator of multiple charter schools. He is a graduate of Harvard College and Yale Law School, and additionally holds a Masters degree and Doctorate from Columbia Teachers’ College. Born and raised in New York City, he is the son of Brooklyn’s first African-American school principal and a Puerto-Rican public school teacher. Both of his parents tragically died when he was 12, and he credits educators with “saving his life” by helping him overcome adversity and providing him with the opportunity to pursue the American Dream.
His tenure as New York’s Education Commissioner was riddled with controversy over the botched implementation of Common Core and his battle with the unions. Dr. King once referred to critics of his policies as “white suburban moms” who were worried that “their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were.” Despite the controversy, President Obama tapped Dr. King to serve as de facto Deputy Education Secretary. Although Dr. King has not been confirmed by the United States Senate for his current role, he will likely remain acting Education Secretary until the end of Obama’s second term. His confirmation would be an uphill battle in a Congress
controlled by partisan Republicans, and President Obama has decided to avoid such a contentious fight.