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John B. King

John B. King

CEO & President of The Education Trust, and Secretary of Education under President Barack Obama


A passionate social justice and civil rights advocate and inspiring educator, John B. King Jr. is the tenth U.S. Secretary of Education and the CEO and President of the national nonprofit organization, The Education Trust, which seeks to close opportunity and achievement gaps for students of color and students living in poverty. Dr. King’s personal story is proof of the transformative power of an excellent education and great teachers. After losing his mother due to illness at age eight, school became a haven of stability and support that sustained Dr. King during his father’s struggle and death from Alzheimer’s disease. Parentless at age 12, Dr. King credits New York City public school teachers with saving his life and giving him hope for the future. Read More >

When President Obama named him to become Secretary of Education at a White House ceremony, Dr. King spoke powerfully about a core belief that has driven him throughout his career: Education is at the very heart of America’s promise of opportunity. In tapping him to lead the U.S. Department of Education, President Obama called Dr. King “an exceptionally talented educator,” citing his commitment to “preparing every child for success” and his lifelong dedication to education as a teacher, principal, and leader of schools and school systems.

As Secretary, Dr. King focused on advancing educational excellence and equity from preschool through college; supporting educators and elevating the teaching profession; and improving college access, affordability, and completion. Before becoming Secretary, Dr. King carried out the duties of the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education, overseeing all policies and programs related to early learning, elementary and secondary education, English learners, special education, and innovation. In this role, Dr. King also oversaw the agency’s operations and led the cross-agency work of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative, which focused on creating pathways to opportunity, especially for boys and young men of color.

Dr. King joined the Obama administration following his tenure as the first African-American and Puerto Rican to serve as New York State Education Commissioner. At the state-level, Dr. King focused on raising standards for teaching and learning, strengthening teacher preparation and professional development, expanding access to quality early learning, advanced coursework, and career and technical education, and promoting socioeconomic diversity in schools. Prior to joining the New York State Education Department, Dr. King served as managing director at Uncommon Schools, a nonprofit charter management organization comprising some of the highest-performing urban public schools in New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.

Dr. King began his career in education as a high school social studies teacher in Puerto Rico and Boston, and as a middle school principal. Today, he continues to teach undergraduate students, serving as a visiting professor at the University of Maryland College Park.  He holds a B.A. from Harvard University, an M.A. and Ed.D. from Teachers College at Columbia University, and a J.D. from Yale University.

Bringing a moving personal narrative and experience that ranges from classroom teacher to U.S. Secretary of Education, Dr. King is a strong voice for equity, justice, and opportunity. Whether speaking to educators, policymakers, philanthropists, business and community leaders, or activists, Dr. King leaves audiences feeling inspired by and invested in the promise of a strong national future built upon the foundation of a high-quality education for all. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

Building Equitable Systems of Education

The Importance of Civic Education

Education's Promise

We Can Choose a Different Future

Speech Topics

Education’s Promise

John B. King Jr. deeply believes, as President Obama once said, that “the future belongs to the nation that best educates its people.” Dr. King champions the idea that education is critical to expanding opportunity, growing a thriving economy, developing engaged citizens, and ensuring our nation’s prosperity. Read More >

Sharing a vision for both our nation’s schools and our country’s future, Dr. King takes a high-level look at some of the most compelling challenges facing our nation today, including: Read Less ^

  • Investing in quality early education
  • Addressing equity issues
  • Providing a well-rounded education (arts education, school counselors, libraries, etc.)
  • Increasing student achievement and global competitiveness
  • Improving outcomes through assessment and accountability

Expanding Opportunity to All

According to Dr. King, “It’s not liberty when happenstance of birth binds a child to a life of limited possibilities. True liberty is being able to take our lives as far as our drive and talent allow. Preserving that birthright requires advocates of public education—including teachers, parents, business leaders, elected officials, and all of us to be a part of the solution.” A passionate believer that education is a ladder that helps people reach places that would otherwise be impossible to climb, Dr. King has made closing achievement and opportunity gaps a lifelong mission. Read More >

Dr. King provides insightful thoughts on: Read Less ^

  • Closing opportunity and achievement gaps for the most underserved, including students of color, English learners, students living in poverty, students with disabilities, and disconnected youth
  • Supporting LGBTQ youth
  • Increasing college access, affordability, and completion
  • Ensuring all schools are safe and welcoming

Pushing For Social Justice

John B. King Jr. knows firsthand what it means to be given a second chance (having been expelled from high school, but having put his life back on track with the support of educators and extended family), but sadly, so many students never receive a first chance. A movement for social justice must include an excellent and equitable public education for underserved students, including students of color and those from low-income backgrounds. A movement for social justice also must include actively listening to and working together with students and communities. Dr. King deeply understands many of the challenges that students face inside and outside of schools and campuses, as well as the necessary supports to help them reach their potential. Dr. King believes that housing, health care, criminal justice, and other social issues are inextricably linked with public education. Dr. King speaks poignantly about the need for local and national leaders to recognize the trauma, biases and barriers, and systemic injustices that can hinder student success. Read More >

Dr. King offers inspiring ideas on ways to build a real movement for educational justice, including: Read Less ^

  • Creating opportunities for all young people to succeed
  • Supporting student activism and civic engagement
  • Making space for student voice
  • Acting with urgency and conviction to invest in students, families, and communities

Supporting Educators & Lifting up the Teaching Profession

As the son of career New York City public school educators, a former high school social studies teacher and a middle school principal, John B. King Jr. understands the power that teachers have to make a difference in students’ lives. By combining first-hand experience with the challenges that educators face with high-level perspectives on leadership and policy, Dr. King shares what it truly will take to elevate the teaching profession and attract and retain talented and diverse educators. Read More >

Dr. King shares actionable recommendations on: Read Less ^

  • Strengthening teacher preparation, retention, and support
  • Creating a pipeline of outstanding educators of color
  • Elevating teachers’ voices in discussions that impact the daily work they do with students
  • Cultivating strong school leaders
  • Building communities that value and celebrate diversity