Miguel Cardona has been confirmed as the United States Secretary of Education. Cardona, was born in Meriden, Connecticut, and grew up in a housing project there. His parents came to Connecticut from Puerto Rico as children, and his grandfather was a tobacco farmer.
He stayed in his home community and became an elementary school teacher and then a high school teacher, moving into administration and becoming the youngest school principal in the State. He was State Education Commissioner in Connecticut — the first Latino in the position, and now has been confirmed as Secretary of Education.
Cardona credits his heritage and being brought up with a strong work ethic and concern for others for his success.
Secretary Cardona also comes from a musical family. His father and brother have a band that plays traditional Puerto Rican music, performing at a local Puerto Rican festival in Connecticut, according to Education Week. Cardona’s wife is a singer. She released a Spanish contemporary album in 2013.
Cardona has extensive experience with one of the biggest issues in education at the moment: should schools be open for face-to-face classes in light of the pandemic. In his home state, he has been a strong advocate for reopening schools.
Poorer children in the United States, and especially those in communities of color, have been disproportionately affected by school closures during the pandemic. Being without school can mean having less food available. Less affluent parents may not have the luxury of staying at home to help children with schoolwork, and may have fewer resources for online learning.
At the same time, COVID-19 doesn’t appear to spread through schools as easily as it does in other settings. Weddings, funerals, birthday parties, and concerts are more likely to be super spreader events than classrooms with strict pandemic protocols. For some students and some communities, closing the school can have more negative repercussions than keeping the schools open.
Yet many teachers are reluctant to go back to school before getting vaccinations, especially those who are vulnerable to COVID.
Cardona is ready
“It’s the honor of my life to be sworn in as the nation’s 12th education secretary,” Cardona tweeted. “Thank you members of senate, @POTUS, and @VP for their trust. Now it’s time to get to work for students. Follow along on my official account, @SecCardona. Added bonus, bringing family to work on Day 1!”
Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) Chairman Raul Ruiz, M.D. (D-CA) made a statement celebrating the confirmation:
“The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) applauds the confirmation of Miguel Cardona as Secretary of Education. The COVID-19 pandemic has conceived one of the most challenging school years in American history, placing a tremendous burden on educators and families, and further exacerbating inequities in our educational system. As a first-generation college student and former teacher, principal, and district administrator, Mr. Cardona understands the diverse needs of students and educators that our government must address. And as a first-generation high school graduate and college student myself, I know that education is the foundation for achieving the American Dream. Providing a high-quality education for our children will be critical for our economic recovery and future. The CHC is confident that Mr. Cardona is the right person to lead the Department of Education as we look to re-open schools safely so that students can return to classrooms and the promise of education in America prevails.”
Cardona looks forward to presiding over the reopening of U.S. schools. Under his leadership, Connecticut was the first state to provide digital access to remote learning for all students during the pandemic.
His team also worked with Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence to develop emotional support curricula for students at no cost.
President Biden ran on a platform of diversity and representation in his government, and Cardona’s appointment supports that goal.