Yesterday, Acting Secretary of Education, Dr. John King, Jr., appeared before the U.S. Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee for consideration of his nomination to be the U.S. Secretary of Education. We support Dr. King’s nomination and urge the HELP Committee to timely confirm him. We are at a pivotal time in our education landscape, and federal leadership and guidance will be instrumental in helping states to implement policies and programs to advance equal access to quality educational opportunities. 

For over the past seventy-five years, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) has worked to secure equal educational opportunity for all of our nation’s children, including through the victory of Brown v. Board of Education in the U.S. Supreme Court. We have relied upon subsequent civil rights laws, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965, to protect and enforce the civil rights of our nation’s historically marginalized students. Over the next few months, the Secretary of Education will provide key guidance and support to states in the implementation of the most recent iteration of ESEA, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). 

This expansive federal K-12 federal funding law, which replaces No Child Left Behind, will have a significant impact on the provision of education to all of our nation’s public school students. LDF was active in helping to promote provisions in ESSA fostering equity and inclusiveness, including alternatives to exclusionary discipline practices and resource equity. These provisions hold the promise of improving student outcomes and helping to dismantle the School-to-Prison Pipeline.  However, states need clarity and support to ensure that the law is implemented consistent with congressional intent. 

We believe that, as a civil rights enforcement agency, it is the responsibility of the Department of Education to act to ensure that ESSA is implemented consistent with its origins as a civil rights law. Specifically, we urge the Department to timely issue regulations, guidance, and technical assistance to states to help them shape their plans, accountability systems, and interventions to ensure that all students succeed. In addition, we urge the Department to conduct a transparent, inclusive, and thoughtful implementation process that incorporates the input and feedback of stakeholders and keeps our nation’s children at the center of all implementation actions. 

We also look forward to working with Dr. King to promote school diversity, improve early learning opportunities, improve higher education completion, expand access to qualified educators, and bolster the Office for Civil Rights’ ability to address and timely resolve complaints. 

We are confident that Dr. John King, Jr. possesses the leadership, integrity, experience, and commitment to equity that will be vital in leading the Department of Education in fulfilling its responsibilities to protect and advance the civil rights of all of our nation’s public school students.  


Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF.