Public education took center stage during a lecture by John B. King, who served as U.S. Secretary of Education under President Barack Obama. King spoke to a crowded room at UMass Amherst on April 4th, while attendees in Springfield watched via live simulcast.
King began his speech acknowledging the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. During his lecture, King spoke about the impact of public school teachers on students lives and the commitment these educators make to their students.
The son of two public school teachers in New York, King challenged the audience to take action and not merely have discussions and engage in meaningless debates.
“We must support the transition of students from high school to college,” King said. “In this economy today, it is virtually impossible to get a good job without some form of postsecondary experience.” King also challenged the audience to seek more diversity among teacher training programs. “We need to invest in teacher professional development and teacher compensation.”
King advocated for quality universal pre-K and the need for all students to have access to advanced placement courses, Arts and music--suggesting a holistic approach to education that considers the students in-class and out-of-school experiences. He also stated that public education must have a vision for dual-language learners.
King is currently president and chief executive of the Education Trust, a nonprofit organization that advocates for high academic achievement for all students, particularly low-income students and students of color. He was named secretary of education in January 2016, succeeding Arne Duncan. As secretary, King focused on advancing excellence and equity throughout pre-school, K-12 and higher education, supporting educators and elevating the teaching profession, and improving college access, affordability and completion. His resume also includes being New York’s first African-American and Puerto Rican education commissioner.
Prior to the lecture, King participated in a Q & A with students and faculty. After the lecture he joined other faculty and area legislators in a panel discussion. The event was
sponsored by the UMass Amherst College of Education. The UMass Center has previously simulcasted State of the University speeches and looks forward to collaborating with the
College of Education and other departments on future simulcasts.