Gerard Robinson, Board of Directors
Gerard Robinson is the executive director of the Center for Advancing Opportunity (CAO). He is also a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in Washington, D.C., a public policy think tank committed to expanding liberty, increasing individual opportunity and strengthening free enterprise. Robinson’s research areas at AEI include parental choice in the public and private schools, regulatory development and implementation of K–12 standards, the role of for-profit companies in education, prison education and reentry programs, and the role of community colleges and Historically Black Colleges and Universities in adult advancement. Before joining AEI, Robinson was Vice President of Partnerships at UniversityNow, Inc., a social venture based in San Francisco that works to expand access to quality higher education options through campus and online programs at Patten University, where he serves as trustee.
Before his work with UniversityNow, Inc., Robinson served as Commissioner of Education for the State of Florida from 2011 to 2012 where he managed several divisions with 3,000 employees. In addition to supporting the education initiatives of Governor Rick Scott, Robinson assisted in the development of a $16 billion education budget, and instituted for the first time in 10 years new achievement level scores for grades 3-10 in reading and grades 3-8 in mathematics. He also created a task force to improve learning opportunities for English language learners and students with special needs, adopted new competency and skill standards for STEM teachers, developed new pre- and post-assessment measures for the Florida Voluntary Pre-K Program, and approved several new degree programs for Florida’s colleges. Robinson also managed the work for Florida’s PARCC, Race to the Top, and Common Core programs, and partnered with the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Council of 100 to strengthen career and college readiness initiatives.
Prior to Florida, Robinson served as Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Virginia. In addition to supporting the education initiatives of Gov. Bob McDonnell, he provided guidance to 16 public universities, the Virginia community college system, five higher education and research centers, the department of education, and the state-supported museums. Robinson also managed Gov. McDonnell’s Opportunity to Learn agenda, which produced laws for traditional public schools, virtual education, charter schools, college laboratory schools, and invested an additional $100 million into postsecondary education to support the conferral of 100,000 additional degrees by 2025 to support Virginia’s Top Jobs for the 21st Century Initiative. Robinson chaired the Virginia Early Childhood Advisory Council and partnered with the Virginia to provide military families in active service with access to high-quality early education programs.
Before working in Virginia, Robinson was President of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to increase access to high-quality educational options for black children by actively supporting transformational education reform initiatives and parental choice policies that empower low income and working-class black families. As the nation’s premier organization for advancement of K-12 public, private and alternative education options for black families and children, Robinson raised money from a diverse group of funders including the Gates, Charles Stewart Mott, George Soros, and Walton Family foundations.
A former legislative aide in the California and Virginia legislatures, he also served as a Senior Research Associate for the School Choice Demonstration Project at the University of Arkansas, a Senior Fellow at the Institute for the Transformation of Learning at Marquette University, and a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Education Policy at The City University of New York. In regard to scholarship, Robinson co-edited a book titled Education Savings Accounts: The New Frontier in School Choice (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017), authored a law review article titled “The Federal Role in Education: Encouragement as a Guiding Philosophy for the Advancement of Learning in America” in 2016, and is working on a book about education and criminal justice reform that is scheduled for publication in 2019. In addition to his published articles, legislative testimonies, and policy papers on K-20 education topics, Robinson has spoken before audiences in the United States as well as at Oxford University in England and the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Robinson’s international education tours include travel to China, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Gambia, Germany, Haiti, Israel, and Senegal.
Robinson is a board member for the Georgia G.O.A.L. Scholarship Program, which has awarded more than $93 million in tax-credit scholarships to families since 2008, and a founding board member of KIPP STRIVE Academy in Atlanta, which won the Charter School of Year Award in 2016. He is an advisory board member to the Pioneer Institute’s Center for School Reform, Pathways in Education, 100Kin10, and Career Journey, GPS. Robinson earned an Ed.M. degree from Harvard University, a B.A. degree from Howard University, and an A.A. degree from El Camino Community College. In 2011, the Trustees of Bluefield College in Virginia awarded Robinson an honorary doctorate for his commitment to improving education at all stages of life. He is married and has three daughters.
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