As President Joseph Biden begins his first 100 days of office, the education community has been focusing on the president’s intention to nominate Connecticut Schools Chief Miguel A. Cardona, Ph.D., as his Secretary of Education.
Biden said he would fill the role with a public school educator, and Cardona, 45, has been a teacher, principal, and district administrator.
But until he is confirmed and his policies put into action, the education community is reviewing his record to speculate what he might do as a cabinet member.
Who is Miguel Cardona?
According to the Connecticut State Department of Education, Cardona was appointed Commissioner of Education by Governor Ned Lamont in August 2019. Cardona started the position with 20 years’ experience as a public school educator. He was an elementary school teacher and then a school principal for a decade. In 2013, he assumed the role of assistant superintendent for teaching and learning. Other accomplishments include:
- Named a National Distinguished Principal
- Served as the co-chairperson of the Connecticut Legislative Achievement Gap Task Force
- Served as co-chairperson of the Connecticut Birth to Grade Three Leaders Council
- Taught for four years as an adjunct professor at the University of Connecticut in the Department of Educational Leadership
Cardona received his bachelor’s degree at Central Connecticut State University. He got his master’s in bilingual/bicultural education, doctorate in Education, and Executive Leadership Program (superintendent) certificate from the University of Connecticut.
Possible Policy Directions
Perhaps Cardona’s first and most pressing challenge will be dealing with COVID-19 and its effect on school re-openings. However, with authority to reopen schools falling on the states, his role here will likely be more influential, especially since federal funding for schools goes through congress.
About 33% of public school students can attend class in-person full-time by late last year in Connecticut.
President Biden’s recent five-page plan addresses safely reopening schools in the fall. Cardona could also help get Biden’s education budget passed, which would likely address reopening concerns for hard-hit districts.
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According to Education Week’s reporting on a summary of the meeting by the Biden transition team, “Cardona 'affirmed participants’ comments that we must challenge a deficit mentality, noting that all students have diverse abilities, and their abilities make schools better. He himself has seen firsthand how schools with diverse populations created a culture of community.”
Education Week said Cardona’s impact on special education could be significant.
Another issue Cardona will likely address early in his tenure is student debt. Currently, there is a moratorium on the repayment of federal student loans.
Pundits seem to agree that Cardona aligns with Biden’s policies on student debt forgiveness and programs that fund free college.
Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association, said, “Dr. Cardona will help fulfill President-elect Biden’s promises to make community college free, tackle the student debt crisis, and enable college graduates to pursue careers in education and public service by expanding and simplifying the Public Service Loan Forgiveness and Teacher Loan Forgiveness programs.”
With the debate over students’ readiness to take standardized tests in grades three through eight this year, Cardona will likely decide whether to cancel testing for the school year. On one side, experts say COVID-19 has set back learning, and the testing will be more of a distraction than helpful. But others say the testing is still necessary for showing what education levels students have reached regarding state standards. According to Chalkbeat, Cardona got a testing waiver in 2020 for Connecticut schools but not in 2021. His department issued a memo defending testing.
As Biden looks to reverse many of President Trump’s policies, Cardona will have the opportunity to do the same to outgoing Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Some of the subjects that could be discussed include suspension rates, school integration policies, transgender school policies, and school sports gender issues.
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