Biden will nominate Connecticut school chief as his education secretary

President-elect Joe Biden plans to nominate Miguel Cardona, education commissioner for the state of Connecticut, as his secretary of education. Cardona is a former teacher and principal.
President-elect Joe Biden plans to nominate Miguel Cardona, education commissioner for the state of Connecticut, as his secretary of education. Cardona is a former teacher and principal.

Miguel Cardona is former teacher and public school grad unlike Betsy DeVos who never taught or attended public school

As promised, President-elect Joe Biden plans to nominate a former public school teacher to serve as his education secretary, a position now held by Betsy DeVos, who championed school choice during her four years. DeVos never taught. Nor did she attend public schools or send her children to them.

Biden will nominate Miguel Cardona, education commissioner for the state of Connecticut. His nomination must be confirmed by the Senate.

“Miguel Cardona is not just a proud product of public schools—he’s made strengthening public education and fighting for equity his life’s work. With his experience as a student, fourth-grade teacher, principal, assistant superintendent and commissioner in Connecticut, Dr. Cardona—a former AFT member—will transform the Education Department to help students thrive, a reversal of the DeVos disaster of the last four years,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel in a joint statement.

“Unlike Betsy DeVos, Secretary-designate Cardona will ensure that the federal government’s role in education is to ensure access and opportunity for every student. He is someone who will defend our students’ civil rights and focus on the success of all students,” said National Education Association President Becky Pringle.

Cardona’s nomination also drew applause from the Center for Education Reform, which advocates for school choice. and opposes many policies endorsed by teacher unions.

“President-Elect Joe Biden’s choice of Connecticut Commissioner of Education, Miguel Cardona, is good news for the millions of parents and students whose fates have been so derailed by the coronavirus this year. Had Biden picked a union leader or equivalent, it would have been akin to an act of war on the progress of the last three decades of pushing power to parents, and on those who have fought to get their kids educated this year, whether back in traditional schools or by their own hand,” said Jeanne Allen, the founder and CEO of the Center for Education Reform. “Instead, his choice of Cardona is reminiscent of President George W. Bush’s choice of then-Houston Superintendent Rod Paige. Both were lesser-known, lifelong educators with a record. Paige understood that not every school is the right fit for every child — a sentiment that Cardona has expressed and will hopefully put into action fully.”

Appointed to the lead job in Connecticut in August of 2019, the 45-year-old Cardona spent most of his 15 months coping with the pandemic and the shuttering of schools. Cardona’s parents are from Puerto Rico. He grew up in in Meriden, Ct., and returned there to become a teacher and eventually one of Connecticut’s youngest school principals. Before being named state commissioner, Cardona had risen to assistant superintendent in his district.

Writing for Teach Connecticut in 2018, Cardona noted:

Like many first generation Latinos whose parents came from another country, I had to learn how to code-switch early. At first it was with language, but it soon became necessary for other nuances of the cultures in which I was immersed.

Navigating the dominant cultural norms in dress, idiomatic expressions and music, among other things, I was always reminded to stay proud and celebrate my Puerto Rican roots.

Like many, I remember what it felt like to be on the wrong side of a stereotype, and I felt it was my purpose in education to evolve the thinking of the next generation. Equity became a foundation for my passion around this time.

- Teach Connecticut, 2018

“I am thrilled to hear that President-Elect Biden plans to nominate Miguel A. Cardona, a state education chief who has dedicated his career to serving students and closing the achievement gap, to serve as the next U.S. Secretary of Education,” said Chief State School Officers CEO Carissa Moffat Miller in a statement. “Dr. Cardona has dedicated his career to creating a more equitable education system, and as Secretary of Education, I know he will continue to prioritize equity, particularly for historically marginalized students.”

Here is Cardona’s official bio with the Connecticut Department of Education:

Dr. Cardona comes to the State Department of Education with two decades of experience as a public-school educator from the city of Meriden. He began his career as an elementary school teacher and then served as a school principal for 10 years. Miguel transitioned to the central office to lead the work of performance and evaluation in the district. In 2013, he assumed the role of assistant superintendent for teaching and learning.

Dr. Cardona served as the co-chairperson of the Connecticut Legislative Achievement Gap Task Force as well as co-chairperson of the Connecticut Birth to Grade Three Leaders Council. He also taught for four years as an adjunct professor at the University of Connecticut in the Department of Educational Leadership.

Dr. Cardona attended Meriden Public Schools and graduated from Wilcox Technical High School. Miguel attended Central Connecticut State University for his bachelor’s degree and UConn, where he completed his master’s in bilingual/bicultural education, Administrator Preparation Program, doctorate in Education, and Executive Leadership Program (superintendent) certificate.

A lifelong Meriden resident and product of its public schools, Miguel is very active in his community, having served or currently serving on several non-profit charitable organization boards of directors.

His greatest source of pride, however, is his family. Miguel and his beautiful wife, Marissa, are the proud parents of two children.

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