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Biden to choose Latino chief of Connecticut schools as education secretary

WASHINGTON – President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is set to appoint Miguel A. Cardona, Connecticut’s education commissioner, to serve as education secretary, making a Latino the top education decision-maker in the country, according to two officials familiar with his plans.

Dr Cardona, if confirmed by the Senate, would be tasked with bringing the primary, secondary and tertiary education systems back from the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic and repairing the extensive damage done. School districts, colleges and universities lost money as they struggled with distance learning, renovated buildings to make them a bit safer, and lost students, especially international students who had paid full tuition fees.

The pandemic has also widened the achievement gap between wealthy students and poorer students who have fallen behind due to insufficient internet access and difficult home learning conditions.

Dr Cardona’s selection would live up to Mr Biden’s campaign pledge to appoint a diverse cabinet and an education secretary with experience in public schools – a direct juxtaposition with President Trump’s billionaire private school champion Betsy DeVos . The official announcement is expected on Tuesday.

Dr Cardona was named Connecticut’s first Latin American Commissioner of Education in 2019 after two decades of experience as a public school educator, starting in an elementary school class in Meriden, Connecticut, according to his official biography. He was also principal for a decade, among the youngest in the state, and as assistant superintendent and adjunct professor at the University of Connecticut.

Dr Cardona has emerged as a leader for the post in recent days, defeating teacher union leaders, higher education academics and superintendents of large urban school districts. It garnered support from key stakeholders in the Biden campaign, including congressional leaders, teachers’ unions, community groups and one of Mr. Biden’s preferred early candidates, Linda Darling-Hammond, who led the campaign education transition team but withdrew from the race. .

Even in the final hours before Mr Cardona’s likely appointment became public, she was endangered by some groups calling for a black woman or a Latina, according to several people familiar with the deliberations.

In a letter to Mr. Biden, the Hispanic Congressional Caucus lobbied for greater Latino representation in its cabinet and wrote that it was “proud to offer our enthusiastic endorsement of Mr. Miguel Cardona,” and said that he was up to the challenge of meeting Mr. Biden’s immediate and long-term political goals.

“We know that all schools, from elementary to college level, face a difficult path as we strive to recover from the pandemic,” the caucus wrote in its letter. “It is clear that Mr. Cardona’s record of accomplishments demonstrates that he is capable and qualified to lead the Ministry of Education. Additionally, as a Puerto Rican leader, he will bring a valued and diverse voice to the cabinet.

In the letter, the caucus promoted his experience as an educator who worked at all levels of a public school system and his experience as a “Spanish speaking student only when he started the school. ‘school’, which includes the plight of English language learners, among the groups most at risk of losing knowledge during the pandemic.

In interviews, Dr Cardona highlighted his parents’ Puerto Rican roots and his upbringing in the public housing and education system at Meridien as experiences that anchored his career.

“It is not lost on me the importance of being the grandson of a tobacco farmer who came here for a better life, who, despite a second grade education, was able to raise his family and create that cycle of upward mobility, ”he said in a 2019 Connecticut Mirror Profile.

While serving as principal of an elementary school in Meriden, he was named Principal of the Year in 2012 and co-chair of the Connecticut Legislative Achievement Gap Task Force. In the task force’s 2014 report, he wrote that “addressing the achievement disparities in Connecticut is more than our moral obligation. It makes fiscal sense, ”because the costs of rehabilitation and incarceration were higher than the cost of educating students.

“In order to address the conditions that perpetuate underperformance, we need to address poverty and systemic barriers while constantly improving our practices in all state agencies,” he wrote.

Dr Cardona has become an urgent voice pressing to reopen schools safely during the pandemic – one of the most immediate challenges Mr Biden faces as the president-elect prioritizes reopening schools in the 100 days after taking office.

Last week, Dr Cardona wrote an opinion piece thanking educators for their commitment to students during the pandemic. He expressed his gratitude as a commissioner, but also as a “father of two attending school in person in the same neighborhood where close family members work daily”. He urged that the same be done for the other children.

“If we provide students with safe in-person learning options, where possible, we can ensure that we are doing everything in our power to level the playing field in education and reduce the gaps.” opportunities for our students, ”he wrote in The Connecticut News-Times. “If we can do it safely, that’s what we owe them.”

While reopening efforts have deeply divided teacher unions from superintendents, Dr Cardona has managed to retain the support of unions in his state, which issued a statement supporting his candidacy a day after the article by opinion.

In a letter, organizations representing more than 60,000 public school employees wrote that Dr Cardona “has been put to the test by the unprecedented upheaval caused by the pandemic” and that his “formative experience as a teacher and administrator has been essential to his accomplishments. Connecticut Education Commissioner. “

“If chosen as secretary of education, Dr Cardona would be a positive force for public education – light years ahead of Betsy DeVos’ sad record,” the letter said.

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