Friday, January 8, 2021
On Wednesday, December 23, in a move applauded by leaders in both public education and labor, President-Elect Joe Biden announced that his nominee for Secretary of Education is current Connecticut Commissioner of Education, Dr. Miguel Cardona.
Cardona started his career as a fourth-grade teacher before becoming a school principal for 10 years and then an assistant superintendent of schools in Meriden, Connecticut. He has served as Commissioner of Education in Connecticut since August of 2019.
During his tenure in Connecticut schools, Dr. Cardona has focused on achievement gaps between Black, Latino and low-income students as the co-chair of the state's Legislative Achievement Gap Task Force. He also co-chaired the state's Birth to Grade Three Leaders Council, which aligns well with Biden's push to provide child-care and universal prekindergarten to all families.
By choosing Cardona, President-Elect Biden fulfilled his campaign promise to nominate someone for Education Secretary who has experience teaching in America's public schools. In a speech announcing his nominee, Biden reiterated his focus on getting schools open amid the pandemic and touted Cardona's experience balancing online and in-person learning in Connecticut, and getting students connected and outfitted with a device for learning. "That's the vision, resolve and initiative, that's all gonna help us contain this pandemic and reopen our schools safely," Biden said.
A video of Biden's introduction and Dr. Cardona's acceptance speech can be seen here.
In his remarks, Dr. Cardona acknowledged what a challenging year this has been for schools. "I've lived those challenges," he said, as both a public school parent and as leader of the public schools in Connecticut. The pandemic, he said, has "taken painful disparities and wrenched them open even wider. ... It has stolen time from our children." In the years to come, he said, "we will carry its impacts."
"It shouldn't take a pandemic for us to realize how important teachers are," Cardona said.
The nomination of Dr. Cardona has drawn praise from the leaders of unions that represent public school educators. In a statement, President of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten said, "Miguel Cardona is not just a proud product of public schools - he's made strengthening public education and fighting for equity his life's work." "Dr. Cardona will transform the Education Department to help students thrive, a reversal of the Betsy DeVos disaster of the last four years." "But Dr. Cardona won't just repair the damage done-he'll act to fulfill the promise and potential of public education and higher education as an opportunity agent for all students, regardless of demography or geography, knowing full well that doesn't happen without resources and a deep respect for educators."
Dr. Cardona has the advantage of having not been a part of the partisan politics in Washington that have made past reforms in public education more challenging. It is expected that his nomination will receive little objection in the United States Senate when his confirmation hearing takes place later this month.