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Key interests have long history with new SUNY Chancellor John King

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WMHT/NY Now screengrab
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WMHT/NY Now screengrab
Dr. John B. King, Jr.

The incoming SUNY Chancellor is no stranger to educational interests in New York.

The New York State University Board of Trustees on Monday appointed John King as the next chancellor of the SUNY system.

King is a former State Education Commissioner and U.S. Secretary of Education under President Obama. He will replace interim SUNY Chancellor Deborah Stanley, who stepped into the role following Jim Malatras’ resignation a year ago.

Recently, King headed up The Education Trust nonprofit. King said at the meeting that he was glad to hear the trustees want SUNY to adhere to principles of diversity, equity and inclusion.

“At the Education Trust our research and advocacy have focused on closing opportunity gaps in higher education for low income students and students of color," said King. "I know that at SUNY we can demonstrate that equity and excellence go hand in hand.”

United University Professions union President Fred Kowal hopes King will be "a strong advocate and partner."

"We think it was very important for SUNY to have a chancellor in place, especially as the budget process is beginning," Kowal said. "And there is a real need for funding across SUNY. And we believe that it's necessary for the leadership of SUNY, now, John King, to work with UUP with student groups with community leaders with the legislature and obviously with the governor who has stated her support for SUNY.”

Governor Kathy Hochul praised the selection while speaking with reporters in Rochester.

“He has a broad base of knowledge about education, overall higher education in particular, but we are looking for a transformative figure, someone that will come here and reestablish the preeminence that I've always thought that SUNY should have, the reputation that I grew up with as a child, that this is the best public education institution in our nation,” said Hochul.

Alexandria Chun, a junior at Binghamton, is President of the SUNY Student Assembly.

"So I can say that I'm absolutely thrilled," Chun said. "I believe that Chancellor King is super well fit for the SUNY system, especially as we transition into a new page, where we prioritize items like diversity, and affordability and accessibility of higher education. I can tell that Dr. King prioritizes college affordability as a platform for future success, as well as closing opportunity gaps for students of color and low income students. And prioritizing excellence in education, which is really awesome."

Senate Republican Leader Rob Ortt says the SUNY Board of Trustees should "immediately reconsider" their choice of King. In a statement Ortt criticizes what he calls "the inflated compensation package" King will receive "On top of an annual salary that is more than three times the Governor’s." Ortt says New York taxpayers will be "on the hook for thousands of dollars a month to pay for travel between New York and Maryland, John King’s state of residence."

New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta wasn't available for comment. NYSUT had issued a vote of no confidence in King when he was state education commissioner. Pallotta said in a statement the union “will work with Chancellor King to ensure that our campuses and the educators serving on them receive the critical funding and support they deserve as we continue to push toward a common goal: Making sure every New Yorker has access to an affordable and exceptional public education.”

King will start January 17th.

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Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.