Gerard Robinson

Gerard Robinson

Professor of Practice in Public Policy and Law

Gerard Robinson is a Professor of Practice in Public Policy and Law at UVA’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, and has a joint appointment at UVA Law School. His areas of expertise are K-12 and higher education, criminal justice reform, race in American institutions and the role of nonprofit organizations in civil society. Examples of his scholarship include two co-edited books, Education for Liberation: The Politics of Promise and Reform Inside and Beyond America’s Prisons (2019) and Education Savings Accounts: The New Frontier in School Choice (2017), as well as an essay published in the Virginia Law Review (2023) and University of Pennsylvania Journal of Law & Social Change (2022). He has been published or quoted in CNN Opinion, Forbes, Newsweek, The Hill, The New York Times, The Washington Examiner, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and U.S. News & World Report. Between 2020-23, Robinson co-hosted the popular “Learning Curve Podcast” with Dr. Cara Candal, through which they interviewed university professors, think tank scholars, entrepreneurs, elected officials, public and private sector leaders, and 13 Pulitzer Prize winners.

From 2017 to 2020, Robinson was executive director of the Center for Advancing Opportunity, a Washington, D.C.-based research and education initiative created by a partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, the Charles Koch Foundation and Koch Industries. In that role, he oversaw an $11 million investment into evidence-based solutions to the most pressing education, entrepreneurship and criminal justice issues throughout the United States by working with faculty and students at historically Black colleges and universities and other postsecondary institutions. He also managed the process with Gallup researchers to gather opinions about education, criminal justice and economic mobility from a national representative sample of more than 18,000 residents living in 49 states and the District of Columbia. Results from the national research project were published in “The State of Opportunity in America Report” in 2018, 2019 and 2020. 

From 2011 to 2012, Robinson served as commissioner of education for the state of Florida, where he managed 3,000 employees dispersed over several divisions. In addition to supporting the education initiatives of Gov. Rick Scott, Robinson assisted in the development of a $16 billion education budget, and instituted for the first time in a decade new achievement level scores for grades three through 10 in reading and grades three through eight in mathematics. He also chaired a task force to improve opportunities for English learners and students with special needs, adopted new competency and skill standards for STEM teacher certification, developed new pre- and post-assessment measures for the voluntary pre-K program, and approved several new degree programs for the Florida College System.

Before working for the state of 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 community college system, five higher education and research centers, the Department of Education and state-supported museums. Robinson managed the governor’s Opportunity to Learn agenda in 2010, which produced new laws for traditional public schools, virtual schools, charter schools and college laboratory schools. In 2011, he directed the Top Jobs for the 21st Century agenda, which produced the Virginia Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2011 to support conferral of 100,000 additional degrees by 2025.

Between 2005 and 2010, Robinson was a program director and later the president of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization that supported federal and state parental choice policies empowering low-income and working-class Black families.

Robinson has testified before local school boards, state legislative and regulatory officials, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and on Capitol Hill. He also has spoken before academic, nonprofit and corporate audiences in the United States, at Oxford University in England, and the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. His international education tours also include travel to China, the Dominican Republic, Egypt, Gambia, Germany, Haiti, Israel, Norway and Senegal. In 2023, he was appointed to serve on the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine Committee on Promoting Learning and Development in K-12 Out-of-School Time Settings for Low-Income and Marginalized Children and Youth, which is charged with producing a national report in 2025.

Robinson, a first-generation college graduate, earned an Ed.M. from Harvard University, a B.A. from Howard University and an A.A. from El Camino Community College. He is married and has three daughters.

All Courses

Education Inside U.S. Prisons Seminar

Parental Choice in K-12 Education (SC)

Seminar in Ethical Values

Featured Scholarship