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The Next Education Secretary: Polarizing, Powered By Personal Story

The nation’s next education secretary is a man driven by what might have been had he not found refuge in public schools. John B. King Jr.’s mother died of a heart attack when he was 8, and then his father descended into Alzheimer’s disease, leaving King an orphan at age 12.

He moved around a lot, staying with relatives. School became the safest, most stable and most nurturing place he knew. “New York City public school teachers are the reason that I am alive,” King said at the White House this month, after President Obama announced that he would succeed Education Secretary Arne Duncan at the end of this year. “Those teachers created amazing educational experiences, but also gave me hope — hope about what is possible, what could be possible for me in life.”