The Senate voted Monday to verify Miguel Cardona as schooling secretary, clearing his method to lead President Joe Biden’s effort to reopen the nation’s faculties amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Cardona, 45, a former public college trainer who went on to turn into Connecticut’s schooling chief, was accepted on a 64-33 vote.
He takes cost of the Education Department amid mounting rigidity between Americans who imagine college students can safely return to the classroom now, and others who say the dangers are nonetheless too nice.
Although his position carries restricted authority to drive faculties to reopen, Cardona shall be requested to play a central function in attaining Biden’s purpose of having a majority of elementary faculties open 5 days every week inside his first 100 days. He shall be tasked with guiding faculties by the reopening course of and sharing finest practices on the right way to educate throughout a pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention final month launched a highway map for getting college students again into school rooms safely. The company stated masks, social distancing and different methods ought to be used, however vaccination of academics was not a prerequisite for reopening.
Cardona, who gained consideration for his efforts to reopen faculties in Connecticut, has vowed to make reopening faculties his prime precedence. At his Senate affirmation listening to final month, he stated there are “great examples throughout our country of schools that have been able to reopen safely.”
The debate has turn into a political firestorm for Biden, who’s caught between competing pursuits as he goals to get college students into the classroom with out upsetting the highly effective academics unions that helped put him within the White House. He says his purpose of returning college students to the classroom is feasible if Congress approves his aid plan, which incorporates $130 billion for the nation’s faculties.
Republicans have rebuked Biden for failing to reopen faculties quicker, whereas academics unions opposed the administration’s determination to proceed with federally required standardized checks in the course of the pandemic.
The difficult terrain is nothing new for Cardona, nonetheless, who confronted comparable rigidity navigating the pandemic in Connecticut, and who has gained early reward even from Biden’s critics.
Republicans in Congress have applauded Cardona’s efforts to reopen faculties in Connecticut, and a few see him as a possible ally of their help for constitution faculties. Teachers, in the meantime, see him as a associate who brings years of expertise in schooling and is aware of the calls for of the instructing.
The nomination continues a meteoric rise for Cardona, who was appointed to steer Connecticut’s schooling division in 2019 after spending 20 years working in Meriden, Connecticut, public faculties — the identical district he attended as a toddler.
He started his career as a fourth-grade trainer earlier than changing into the state’s youngest principal at age 28. In 2012, he was named Connecticut’s principal of the year, and in 2015 he turned an assistant superintendent of the district. When he was appointed state schooling commissioner, he turned the primary Latino to carry the submit.
Cardona grew up in a public housing project in Meriden, raised by dad and mom who got here to Connecticut from Puerto Rico as youngsters. Through his career, he has targeted on closing schooling gaps and supporting bilingual schooling. It’s a personal challenge for Cardona, who says he spoke solely Spanish when he entered kindergarten and struggled to be taught English.
Cardona was the primary in his household to graduate from school, and his three levels embody a doctorate in schooling from the University of Connecticut. He and his spouse, Marissa, have two youngsters in highschool.
His deep roots in public education match the standards Biden was in search of in an schooling secretary. During his marketing campaign, Biden vowed to select a secretary with expertise in public schooling. It was meant to attract a distinction with then-secretary Betsy DeVos, a Michigan billionaire who spent a long time advocating for college selection insurance policies.
In an more and more fractionalized world of schooling, Cardona has vowed to be a unifier. At his affirmation listening to, he promised to have interaction 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 assist faculties reopen, he will even be tasked with serving to them deal with the injury the pandemic has performed to pupil studying. He has echoed Biden’s name for additional schooling funding, saying faculties might want to broaden summer season educational packages and hire extra counselors to assist college students with psychological well being points.
He’s additionally more likely to face an early take a look at as he weighs how a lot flexibility to grant states as they administer standardized checks. Last week, the Education Department ordered states to proceed with annual testing however stated assessments could possibly be supplied on-line or delayed till fall. The company additionally held out the likelihood that states could possibly be granted “additional assessment flexibility” in sure instances.
Some states are already pushing for that further flexibility, together with Michigan, which is asking to switch state checks with native “benchmark” assessments that have been administered this year. It shall be as much as Cardona to determine how a lot leniency to supply.
Republicans have additionally set the stage for a struggle over transgender athletes. At final month’s listening to, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., raised objections with insurance policies that enable transgender ladies to take part in ladies’ athletics. It’s the topic of a authorized battle in Connecticut, the place some cisgender athletes are difficult a state coverage that lets transgender college students take part as their recognized gender.
Pressed by Paul to take a stance on the problem, Cardona stated he would help the appropriate of “all students, including students who are transgender.”