Dr. John King: A Necessary Voice for Vulnerable Students

By Janet Murguía, President and CEO, National Council of La Raza and Marc H. Morial, President and CEO, National Urban League

For the first time in the nation's history, the majority of children who attend U.S. public schools are students of color. While it is unquestionable that the growing diversity among our young students is an asset to this nation, we cannot ignore the unique challenges that many students of color face within our school system that hinder their academic achievement. Although more Black and Latino students are enrolling in higher education, too many are still not college-ready. Given these challenges, it is important that our educational leaders take into account the unique challenges and lived experiences of students of color.

Luckily, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle recognize that we cannot continue to allow children of color to fall behind in their education. Over the next year, the U.S. Department of Education will undertake the challenging task of implementing the recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a law with the fundamental goal of improving academic achievement for vulnerable students. The Department of Education needs a proven leader at its helm to guide this process--as well as the entire American school system--through this extensive undertaking. Thankfully, the leader who should be confirmed by Congress as the next secretary of education is already serving in this capacity. Acting Education Secretary Dr. John B. King has proven that he is superbly qualified to guide our teachers and students through the first year of ESSA implementation in a manner consistent with the law's civil rights legacy.

Dr. King not only has experience teaching inside the classroom, but he has also served as an education leader at the local, state, and federal levels, working as education commissioner of New York prior to joining the Department of Education. Throughout his career, he has shown a deep commitment to raising academic standards and promoting equity throughout the American educational system. He has consistently fought for the needs of vulnerable children and worked toward providing greater opportunities for all students in order to better prepare them to enter the 21st-century workforce.

As an Afro-Latino himself, Dr. King also adds much-needed diversity to the president's cabinet and reflects the changing demographics of this nation's student body. His intimate understanding of the vulnerabilities facing Black and Latino students combined with his education leadership experience position him to be a driving force for educational equity. Together, with Dr. King at the helm of the Department of Education, we can ensure that states and school districts live up to their obligation to provide a quality education to all on an equal basis--not just for the most privileged or wealthy.

Dr. King is the best candidate to oversee our federal education laws and ensure effective implementation of ESSA. We are confident that his confirmation will help ensure that this signature civil rights legislation fulfills its promise to the 20 million Black and Latino students in American schools. We urge Congress to swiftly confirm Dr. King to be the next Secretary of Education.