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New Co-Director of White House Initiative of AAPIs Named

John KingBy Ed Diokno

Acknowledging  the importance of education to the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. was picked to join U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy to co-chair the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs).


“It’s critically important that we both recognize and address the needs of all communities, including Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders,” said King in a press release. “In my role as co-chair of the Initiative, I want to be sure that we continue to work to close persistent opportunity gaps for portions of the AAPI community that have been consistently underserved.


“As Secretary of Education, I will continue to work to ensure all students have equitable access to resources, high achieving schools and well-prepared teachers. Under the new Every Student Succeeds Act, there is a continued role for the U.S. Education Department to advance educational equity for all children.”


The Asian American and Pacific Islander community is extremely diverse and is now the fastest growing racial group in the country, according to recent findings. This community continues to face the model minority myth that most are well-educated, affluent, and self-sufficient. This myth has prevented AAPI communities from fully benefiting from federal programs and resources targeting vulnerable and underserved communities.


In reality, the AAPI community is not a monolithic group, and each group faces unique challenges—from education and immigration to health and economic opportunity. For example:


  • One in seven Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders has a college degree.
  • One in three AAPIs is limited English proficient.
  • One in 10 undocumented individuals in the United States is of Asian descent.
  • Half of AAPI college students attend community college, and nearly 40 percent of AAPI college students are enrolled in Asian American Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions.
  • Two million uninsured AAPIs gained access to health care insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

Dr. King’s life story is an extraordinary testament to the power of education. Both of Dr. King’s parents were career New York City public school educators, whose example serves as an enduring inspiration.

King’s parents both died from illness by the time he was 12, and he struggled to cope with their loss as he moved between family members and schools. He credits New York City public school teachers — particularly his teachers at P.S. 276 in Canarsie and Mark Twain J.H.S. in Coney Island — for saving his life by providing transformative educational experiences and giving him hope about the future. He went on to graduate from Harvard, Yale and Columbia and become a teacher and education leader.


Re-established by President Obama in October 2009, the Initiative is a broad-based government-wide initiative working to improve the quality of life and opportunities for AAPIs by facilitating increased access to and participation in federal programs, where AAPIs remain underserved.

King and Vivek replace Kiran Ahuja who served in that position for six years.
Former Director of White House Initiative on AAPIs Begins New Chapter

The video below was made before King was formally appointed as Secretary of Education.

(Ed Diokno writes a blog :Views From The Edge: news and analysis from an Asian American perspective.)

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