POLITICS

Senate Confirms Cardona As Biden’s Education Secretary

Mar 1, 2021, 5:14 PM
Education Secretary nominee Miguel Cardona testifies before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and...
Education Secretary nominee Miguel Cardona testifies before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee during his confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, Pool)
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh, Pool)

(AP) – The Senate voted Monday to confirm Miguel Cardona as education secretary, clearing his way to lead President Joe Biden’s effort to reopen the nation’s schools amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Cardona, 45, a former public school teacher who went on to become Connecticut’s education chief, was approved on a 64-33 vote.

He takes charge of the Education Department amid mounting tension between Americans who believe students can safely return to the classroom now, and others who say the risks are still too great.

Although his position carries limited authority to force schools to reopen, Cardona will be asked to play a central role in achieving Biden’s goal to have a majority of elementary schools open five days a week within his first 100 days. He will be tasked with guiding schools through the reopening process, and sharing best practices on how to teach during a pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month released a road map for getting students back into classrooms safely. The agency said masks, social distancing and other strategies should be used, but vaccination of teachers was not a prerequisite for reopening.

Cardona, who gained attention for his efforts to reopen schools in Connecticut, has vowed to make it his top priority to reopen schools. At his Senate confirmation hearing last month, he said there are “great examples throughout our country of schools that have been able to reopen safely.”

The debate has become a political firestorm for Biden, who is caught between competing interests as he aims to get students into the classroom without provoking the powerful teachers unions that helped put him in the White House. He says his goal of returning students to the classroom is possible if Congress approves his relief plan, which includes $130 billion for the nation’s schools.

Republicans have rebuked Biden for failing to reopen schools faster, while teachers unions opposed the administration’s decision to continue with federally required standardized tests during the pandemic.

The tricky terrain is nothing new for Cardona, however, who faced similar tension navigating the pandemic in Connecticut, and who has won early praise even from Biden’s critics.

Republicans in Congress have applauded Cardona’s efforts to reopen schools in Connecticut, and some see him as a potential ally in their support for charter schools. Teachers, meanwhile, see him as a partner who brings years of experience in education and knows the demands of the teaching.

The nomination continues a meteoric rise for Cardona, who was appointed to lead Connecticut’s education department in 2019 after spending 20 years working in Meriden, Connecticut, public schools — the same district he attended as a child.

He began his career as a fourth grade teacher before becoming the state’s youngest principal at age 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 post.

Cardona grew up in a public housing project in Meriden, raised by parents who came to Connecticut from Puerto Rico as children. Through his career, he has focused on closing education gaps and supporting bilingual education. It’s a personal issue for Cardona, who says he spoke only Spanish when he entered kindergarten and struggled to learn English.

Cardona was the first in his family to graduate from college, and his three degrees include a doctorate in education from the University of Connecticut. He and his wife, Marissa, have two children in high school.

His deep roots in public schooling fit the criteria Biden was looking for in an education secretary. During his campaign, Biden vowed to pick a secretary with experience in public education. It was meant to draw a contrast with then-secretary Betsy DeVos, a Michigan billionaire who spent decades advocating for school choice policies.

In an increasingly fractionalized world of education, Cardona has vowed to be a unifier. At his confirmation hearing, he promised to engage with “the vast, diverse community of people who have a stake in education.” He added that, “we gain strength from joining together.”

As he works to help schools reopen, he will also be tasked with helping them address the damage the pandemic has done on student learning. He has echoed Biden’s call for further education funding, saying schools will need to expand summer academic programs and hire more counselors to help students with mental health issues.

He’s also likely to face an early test as he weighs how much flexibility to grant states as they administer standardized tests. Last week, the Education Department ordered states to continue with annual testing but said assessments could be offered online or delayed until fall. The agency also held out the possibility that states could be granted “additional assessment flexibility” in certain cases.

Some states are already pushing for that extra flexibility, including Michigan, which is asking to replace state tests with local “benchmark” assessments that were administered this year. It will be up to Cardona to decide how much leniency to provide.

Republicans have also set the stage for a fight over transgender athletes. At last month’s hearing, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., raised objections with policies that allow transgender girls to participate in girls’ athletics. It’s the subject of a legal battle in Connecticut, where some cisgender athletes are challenging a state policy that lets transgender students participate as their identified gender.

Pressed by Paul to take a stance on the issue, Cardona said he would support the right of “all students, including students who are transgender.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Politics

FILE (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)...
Associated Press

Tie in Alabama GOP race means winner to be selected by lot

Alabama's Republican Party has declared a tie in the primary race for a state Senate seat and says the winner will be chosen by lot.
15 hours ago
FILE - Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks with reporters following a closed-door...
LISA MASCARO AP Congressional Correspondent

As Senate-confirmed justices end Roe, how will voters react?

The end of Roe v. Wade started in the Senate. The Senate Republican partnership with President Donald Trump to confirm conservative justices paved the way for the Supreme Court's landmark ruling on abortion rights.
15 hours ago
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 16: (L-R) Governor of South Dakota Kristi Noem speaks as U.S. President D...
HOPE YEN, Associated Press

SD gov: Bar abortion pills, but don’t punish women for them

South Dakota’s Republican governor pledged on Sunday to bar mail-order abortion pills but said women should not face prosecution for seeking them.
15 hours ago
FILE (Photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images for UNITAS)...
Associated Press

Off-duty officer charged with assault at abortion protest

A Rhode Island police officer accused of punching a woman at an abortion protest while off-duty has now been charged.
15 hours ago
FILE - Sinclair gas prices in Utah remain over $5. (KSLTV)...
PAUL WISEMAN AP Economics Writer

Did corporate greed fuel inflation? It’s not the only or biggest culprit

Furious about surging prices at the gasoline station and the supermarket, many consumers feel they know just where to cast blame: On greedy companies that relentlessly jack up prices and pocket the profits.
15 hours ago
Hundreds of protesters marched in Provo for abortion rights....
Michael Locklear

Hundreds protest in Provo to demand abortion rights

A crowd of roughly 300 people gathered in Provo Saturday night to demand abortion rights.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...
1-800-GOT-JUNK?

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
Senate Confirms Cardona As Biden’s Education Secretary