Biden Chooses Dr. Miguel Cardona as the Nation’s First Latino Secretary of Education
Choosing the Connecticut education commissioner, a relative unknown on the national stage, allows Biden to briefly sidestep fraught debates over charter schools, teachers unions, and testing that have divided his party. Biden would also fulfill his promise to nominate a former public school teacher to replace Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
“In Miguel Cardona, America will have an experienced and dedicated public school teacher leading the way at the Department of Education — ensuring that every student is equipped to thrive in the economy of the future, that every educator has the resources they need to do their jobs with dignity and success, and that every school is on track to reopen safely,” Biden said in astatement.
If confirmed, Cardona will oversee the federal education department as schools grapple with the unprecedented disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic. As commissioner in Connecticut, Cardona encouraged schools to reopen their buildings, but with mixed success, as only about a third of students in the state have access to full-time in-person instruction.
The shift from Secretary Betsy DeVos will be a profound one. Cardona’s biography makes for a sharp contrast with DeVos, a billionaire philanthropist who focused on private schools. He grew up in public housing anddidn’t speak English until starting school. And his career has been spent almost exclusively inside public schools and within a single school district.
Cardona began his career as an elementary school teacher in Meriden, Connecticut. He quickly became a school principal — the youngest in the state at 28, according to the local Record-Journal.He then served as the district’s assistant superintendent before being named the state schools chief.
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After nine weeks, Atkins switched to homeschooling. “It got to the point where it felt like there was no other choice to make,” she said. “I was worried for my kids’ mental health.”
That is a significant shift considering that enrollment overall in those states has typically gone up by around half a percent in recent years. And the decline is only likely to become more pronounced, as several large states have yet to release information. Chalkbeat and AP surveyed all 50 states, but 17 have not released comparable enrollment numbers yet.
The data, which in many states is preliminary, offers the clearest picture yet of the pandemic’s devastating toll on public school enrollment — a decline that could eventually have dire consequences for school budgets that are based on headcounts. But even more alarming, educators say, is that some of the students who left may not be in school at all.
Related Stories on Declining Public School Enrollment
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