President-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday officially introduced Connecticut Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona as his nominee for education secretary.
Cardona’s nomination makes good on Biden’s campaign pledge to appoint an individual with public school experience, following President Donald Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, who championed private schools and mostly turned a blind eye to the plight of underserved students.
At a press conference in Wilmington, Delaware, to announce the nomination, Biden lauded Cardona as “someone who knows from his core that our nation’s children are the kite strings that lift our national ambitions aloft.”
“He is the secretary of education for this moment,” Biden said. “To the current staff of the Department of Education, you’ll have a fantastic and trusted leader who’ll help you carry out the department’s mission with the honor and integrity of an educator.”
Cardona, who was appointed Connecticut’s commissioner of education in 2019 after more than two decades as a public school educator, said the time is now to address both pre- and post-pandemic problems of the nation’s education system.
“For so many of our schools and far too many of our students, this unprecedented year has piled on crisis after crisis,” he said. “It’s taken some of our most painful, long-standing disparities and wrenched them open even wider. It’s taxed our teachers, our leaders, our school professionals and staff, who’ve already poured so much of themselves into their work.
“Though we are beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel, we also know this crisis is ongoing, that we will carry its impacts for years to come,” Cardona said. “And that the problems and inequities that have plagued our educational system since long before COVID will still be with us even after the virus is gone.
“So it’s our responsibility, it’s our privilege to take this moment and to do the most American thing imaginable — to forge opportunity out of crisis,” he said.
Cardona’s nomination also demonstrates Biden’s intentions on having the most diverse administration in U.S. history. He would be just the nation’s second Puerto Rican education secretary.
He began his career as an elementary school teacher and later served 10 years as a school principal. In 2013, Cardona became the assistant superintendent for teaching and learning.
“Given the significant educational and economic declines impacting the nation this year, the new secretary of education, is a pivotal component of the overall success of the Biden administration, and for African Americans progress in particular,” Nicole L. McDonald, the assistant vice provost for student success strategies at the University of Houston, wrote in an email to the Black Press.
“Moving forward, African Americans should expect President-elect Biden to position education and educational attainment as part of the front-line defense in the nation’s economic recovery and workforce development, commitment to social justice and criminal justice reform, and in improving the accessibility of health and human services,” McDonald wrote.