John King Jr.

For the NASCAR driver, see John King II.
John King Jr.
10th United States Secretary of Education
Assumed office
March 14, 2016
President Barack Obama
Deputy James Cole (Acting)
Preceded by Arne Duncan
Succeeded by Betsy DeVos (nominee)
United States Deputy Secretary of Education
In office
January 4, 2015  March 14, 2016
President Barack Obama
Preceded by James Shelton
Succeeded by James Cole (Acting)
New York Commissioner of Education
In office
June 15, 2011  January 4, 2015
Governor Andrew Cuomo
Preceded by David Steiner
Succeeded by Elizabeth Berlin (Acting)
Personal details
Born 1975 (age 4041)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Melissa
Children 2
Alma mater Harvard University (BA)
Columbia University (MEd, EdD)
Yale University (JD)

John B. King Jr. (born 1975) is the Secretary of Education at the U.S. Department of Education.[1] Immediately before he assumed leadership of the Department, he served as its Acting Deputy Secretary,[2][3] and from 2011 to 2014 he was the New York State Education Commissioner.[4] The former Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan,[5][6] was charged with implementing the No Child Left Behind Act; however, King is obliged to carry out the provisions of that law's modified successor legislation, the Every Student Succeeds Act.[7]

Early life

John B. King Jr. was born in 1975 in Flatlands, Brooklyn, to John B. King Sr., a retired public school administrator and teacher, and Adalinda King, a school guidance counselor. King Sr. had been Brooklyn's first black principal and later became New York City's executive deputy superintendent of schools. King Jr.'s parents met in graduate school, where his father was his mother's instructor. She died of a heart attack when King was eight years old. His father developed Alzheimer's and later died when King was 12. King moved to Long Island to live with his 24-year-old half brother. King later attended Phillips Andover but rebelled against its rules and was expelled in his junior year. He moved in with his uncle in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, where he applied and was accepted to Harvard University.[8]

After receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Government from Harvard,[9] King taught social studies and received his master's from Teachers College, Columbia University. He taught for three years, including two years at a Boston charter school. King was among the founders of Roxbury Preparatory Charter School, where he served as co-director for five years and developed its curriculum and rules, such as no talking in the hallways between classes. King then joined the Uncommon Schools urban, public, charter school organization.[8]

King later received a Juris Doctor from Yale Law School, and a Doctor of Education degree in educational administrative practice from Columbia University Teachers College.[9]

King was a 1995 Truman Scholar and received the James Madison Memorial Fellowship for secondary-level teaching of American history, American government, and social studies.[9]


King served on the board of New Leaders for New Schools from 2005 to 2009, and is a 2008 Aspen Institute-NewSchools Entrepreneurial Leaders for Public Education Fellow.[9]

New York Commissioner of Education

King was appointed Commissioner of Education of the State of New York in May, 2011, succeeding David Steiner [8] as Commissioner of Education and President of the University of the State of New York (USNY).

In June 2013, Commissioner King released a new teacher and principal evaluation plan for New York City, bringing New York State's largest school district into compliance with state law.[10]

In October 2013 King launched a listening tour across the state, in response to the State of New York’s adoption of Common Core Standards. After a forum near Poughkeepsie, where he was drowned out by the crowd, he canceled several other planned forums, then rescheduled them.[11] King was called on to resign by several parent groups.[12] In November 2014, the state teachers’ union called for his resignation.[13]

He appeared on the Netflix television series Chelsea in May 2016.[14]

U.S. Department of Education

King at the signing of the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act
King's video introduction as Secretary of Education

In February 2011, King was appointed by United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to serve on the U.S. Department of Education's Equity and Excellence Commission.[15]

In January 2015, King became the Acting Deputy Secretary of Education (officially, the "Senior Advisor Delegated Duties of Deputy Secretary of Education"). In this position he oversaw a broad range of management, policy, and program functions.

In the fall of 2015 when Arne Duncan announced that he would resign as Secretary of Education at the end of the year, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that King would succeed Duncan as the Acting Secretary until the end of the President's term (in January 2017).[16] At the White House press briefing discussing King's appointment, President Obama called King "the right man" to lead the Department of Education, and King replied that the President and Secretary Duncan had laid out "an ambitious agenda . . . and I’m proud to be able to carry it forward."[17] In choosing King to succeed Arne Duncan, the Washington Post stated that President Obama was "choosing continuity" and noted that King was pushing for the adoption of teacher evaluations, Common Core Standards and student testing as the New York State Commissioner of Schools while the Obama administration was pushing for the adoption of similar reforms across the United States.[18] Even if their education reform agendas are similar, Duncan pointed out that King's background (he has African-American and Puerto Rican heritage and was orphaned at age 12) gave him a "set of experiences that I simply did not have that I think will help to make him especially impactful."[19]

On December 10, 2015, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act, the successor law to the No Child Left Behind Act. In remarks at the signing ceremony, the President said, "we are going to miss Arne Duncan a lot. Fortunately . . . we also have a great replacement for Arne in Dr. John King, who is going to be doing outstanding work helping to implement this [new legislation]."[20]

On February 2, 2016, according to Federal News Radio, members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee took King and the Department's chief information officer Danny Harris to task for systemic cybersecurity problems, and what some called a lack of accountability for past behaviors.

On March 14, 2016, King was approved to be Secretary of Education by the United States Senate after a 49-40 vote.[21]

Personal life

King is married to Melissa Steel King, an associate partner at Bellwether Education Partners.[22] They live in Takoma Park, Maryland and have two daughters.


  1. "John B. King Jr., Acting Secretary of Education—Biography". U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved 5 January 2016.
  2. "NY Education Commissioner John King to Join Education Department as Senior Advisor | U.S. Department of Education". Retrieved 2015-08-31.
  3. Camera, Lauren (October 5, 2015). "5 Things to Know About the New Education Secretary; Arne Duncan's replacement has gone to battle with teachers unions, and they're not happy about his promotion.". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved October 21, 2015.
  4. Taylor, Kate (10 December 2014). "New York State Education Commissioner to Leave for Federal Post". New York Times. Retrieved 5 January 2016.
  5. Harris, Gardiner; Rich, Motoko (2 October 2015), "Arne Duncan, Education Secretary, to Step Down in December", The New York Times, retrieved 5 January 2016
  6. Skiba, Katherine (2 October 2015). "Arne Duncan stepping down, returning to Chicago". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 5 January 2016.
  7. Scott, Amy (4 January 2016). "What to expect from new education chief John King". Marketplace. Retrieved 5 January 2016.
  8. 1 2 3 Otterman, Sharon (May 16, 2011). "Charter Founder Is Named Education Commissioner". The New York Times. Archived from the original on October 3, 2015. Retrieved October 3, 2015.
  9. 1 2 3 4 "John B. King Jr., Senior Advisor Delegated Duties of Deputy Secretary of Education — Biography". United States Department of Education. October 2, 2015. Retrieved October 2, 2015.
  10. Joseph, Channing (June 1, 2013). "New York to Evaluate Teachers With New System". The New York Times. New York. Retrieved 2014-01-07.
  11. Taylor, Kate (2014-12-11). "John King Jr., New York State's Education Chief, to Leave Many Policy Wars Behind". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-08-31.
  12. Clukey, Keshia. "Parents statewide call for resignation of Education Commissioner". Retrieved 2015-08-31.
  13. Taylor, Kate (May 26, 2015). "MaryEllen Elia Named New York State Education Commissioner". The New York Times. Retrieved October 26, 2015.
  15. "U.S. Secretary of Education Appoints Members of Equity and Excellence Commission" (Press release). Press Office of the U.S. Department of Education. February 17, 2011. Retrieved October 25, 2015.
  16. "Arne Duncan resigns, one of last members of Obama's original cabinet". Associated Press via the New York Post. October 2, 2015. Retrieved October 21, 2015.
  17. "Remarks by the President, Secretary Arne Duncan, and Dr. John King in Personnel Announcement" (Press release). The White House, Office of the Press Secretary. October 2, 2015. Retrieved October 21, 2015.
  18. Emma, Brown; Layton, Lyndsey (October 11, 2015), "The next education secretary: Polarizing, powered by personal story", The Washington Post, retrieved October 21, 2015
  19. Camera, Lauren (October 20, 2015). "What John King Has That Arne Duncan Doesn't; Incoming education secretary John King's past could make him especially effective.". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved October 21, 2015.
  20. Obama, Barack (December 10, 2015). Remarks by the President at Every Student Succeeds Act Signing Ceremony (Speech). Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Washington, D.C. Retrieved December 23, 2015.
  21. Severns, Maggie (March 14, 2016) "Senate confirms education secretary", Politico. Retrieved March 14, 2016.
  22. ""Melissa Steel King"".
Government offices
Preceded by
David Steiner
New York Commissioner of Education
Succeeded by
Elizabeth Berlin
Political offices
Preceded by
James H. Shelton
United States Deputy Secretary of Education

Succeeded by
James Cole Jr. (Acting)
Preceded by
Arne Duncan
United States Secretary of Education
Succeeded by
Betsy DeVos
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Ernest Moniz
as Secretary of Energy
Order of Precedence of the United States
as Secretary of Education
Succeeded by
Bob McDonald
as Secretary of Veterans Affairs
United States presidential line of succession
Preceded by
Ernest Moniz
as Secretary of Energy
15th in line
as Secretary of Education
Succeeded by
Bob McDonald
as Secretary of Veterans Affairs
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