Friday, April 16, 2021

Senate Confirms Miguel Cardona as Department of Education Secretary

Yesterday, the Senate voted to confirm Miguel Cardona as Department of Education Secretary clearing his way to lead the country’s schools amid the COVID19 pandemic. Cardona, a former public-school teacher, was approved on a 64- 33 vote.

Cardona takes charge of the Department of Education amid the increasing tension between Americans who believe it’s safe for students to return to schools and others who argue that the risks are still too great. Although his position has limited authority to force schools to reopen, Cardona will play a significant role in achieving Biden’s goal to have most elementary schools open five days a week within his first 100 days and will be tasked with guiding schools through the reopening process and best practices.

The CDC released a plan for getting students back into classrooms safely. The agency stated that masks, social distancing among other strategies should be used, however, vaccinations of teachers was not a prerequisite for reopening schools.

Cardona, who attracted attention for his efforts to reopen schools in Connecticut, has promised to make it his top priority to reopen schools. Republicans in Congress have applauded his efforts, and some see him as a potential ally in their support for charter schools. Teachers see him as a partner who brings years of experience in education and knows the demands of the teaching.

The nomination continues as huge achievement for Cardona, who was appointed to lead Connecticut’s education department in 2019 after spending 20 years working in Meriden, Connecticut. He began his career as a fourth-grade teacher before becoming the state’s youngest principal at the age of 28.

In 2012, he was named Connecticut’s principal of the year and in 2015 he became an assistant superintendent of the district. When he was appointed state education commissioner, he became the first Latino to hold the position.

Cardona grew up in a public housing project in Meriden, raised by Puerto Rican parents. Throughout his career, he has focused on closing education gaps and supporting bilingual education. He was the first in his family to graduate from college and his three degrees include a doctorate in education.

His extensive experience in public schooling fits the criteria Biden was looking for in an education secretary. As Cardona works to help schools reopen, he will also be tasked with helping them address the damage the pandemic has done on student learning.

He agrees with Biden’s call for further education funding saying schools will need to expand summer academic program and hire more counselors to help students with mental health issues. Cardona is also likely to face an early test as he weighs in how much flexibility to grant states as they administer standardized tests.

Republicans have also set the stage for a fight over trans athletes. During his confirmation, Cardona has vowed to be a unifier and promised to engage with “the vast, diverse community of people who have a stake in education. We gain strength from joining together.”

NBC