On February 11, John B. King, Jr. was nominated by President Barack Obama to serve as U.S. Secretary of Education. Dr. King was appointed to the position of Acting Secretary in January.
ACCT members said they applaud and support the nomination of Dr. King, who has displayed great appreciation and support for community colleges and public education. He demonstrated these commitments by serving as the closing keynote speaker during the 2016 Community College National Legislative Summit.
“We are encouraged that Dr. King has focused during his tenure at the Education Department on improving student access, equity and success,” said ACCT President and CEO J. Noah Brown. “That he has taken time from his schedule to perform site visits at a number of community colleges and to speak with the leaders of the nation’s community colleges at the National Legislative Summit underscores these commitments and is heartening for the future of our colleges and the 11 million students we serve.”
“As we move into…this capstone year of our work in education, we are as committed as ever that education can be the driver of opportunity in this country,” King told the nearly 1,000 community college trustees and presidents in attendance. “Community colleges are a gateway of opportunity for people who otherwise wouldn’t have those opportunities. Community colleges are the answer for many of the nation’s greatest challenges.”
“We all understand that access and affordability alone aren’t enough,” Dr. King said. “It’s not about getting to college, but through college and to a meaningful degree that creates opportunity in the 21st century.”
Dr. King spoke of the department’s emphasis on innovation over the past seven years, highlighting efforts to encourage short-term training, competency-based education, dual enrollment for high school students, and its experimental work with “second-chance Pell,” which allows inmates the opportunity to receive financial aid to take courses in preparation for their return to society.
“Second-chance Pell is an important statement not only about higher education, but about our values as a community,” Dr. King said.
Dr. King also pointed to President Obama’s budget proposal released earlier this month, which includes funding for the America’s College Promise initiative, the reinstatement of year-round Pell Grants, “on-track” bonuses for students enrolled in 15 credits or more, the reintroduction of the $100 million First in the World innovation grant as well as a similar program for minority-serving institutions, a $3.5 billion grant program for workforce development, and $2 billion for programs focused on disconnected youth.
The proposals, Dr. King said, all have “the same focus on the same north star goal that the president set out at the start of the administration, which is to ensure we are the first in the world in college graduation…to get back to first will require an all-hands-on-deck strategy, and it will require strong partnerships btw K-12, the community college system, four-year colleges and employers.”
Before becoming Acting Secretary, Dr. King carried out the duties of the Deputy Secretary, overseeing all preschool-through-12th-grade education policies, programs and strategic initiatives, as well as the operations of the Department. Dr. King also oversaw the Department’s work leading cross-agency collaboration for President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper task force, which seeks to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and ensure that all young people are able to reach their full potential. Earlier in his career, he served as the commissioner of education for the state of New York.
ACCT will keep members apprised of Dr. King’s nomination as he is moved through the Senate approval process.