On Dec. 21, then President-elect Joe Biden said that he had selected Connecticut Commissioner of Education Miguel Cardona as his pick to lead the U.S. Department of Education.
Cardona began his career in public education as a fourth-grade teacher at Israel Putnam School in Meriden, Connecticut. He went on to become the youngest principal in Connecticut at age 28 at Hanover Elementary School—also in Meriden. Prior to his appointment as Connecticut’s commissioner of education in August 2019, Cardona was assistant superintendent in Meriden.
As a public school student himself, the son of parents who had moved to Meriden from Puerto Rico, he lived in public housing and did not speak English as a young child.
NJEA’s officers, President Marie Blistan, Vice President Sean M. Spiller and Secretary-Treasurer Steve Beatty, released the following statement on Cardona’s nomination:
“We congratulate Dr. Cardona and look forward to working with him to help all schools in the United States emulate the success of New Jersey’s best-in-the-nation public schools. Our public schools can serve as a model of what is possible when committed educators, involved families and forward-thinking communities work together to provide students with the support and resources needed to thrive socially, emotionally and academically.
“We trust that Dr. Cardona shares our commitment to racial, social and economic justice for our students and the communities in which they live. There is so much work still to do to overcome systemic oppression and discrimination and achieve true equity for all students. We will continue to pursue that critical work in New Jersey, and we are pleased that we will have an ally in Washington pushing for that across the nation.”
“When a record number of Americans turned out to vote for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, they sent a resounding message demanding justice, stronger public schools and more opportunities for all students—Black and white, Native and newcomer, Hispanic and Asian alike.
“In these tough times, students, educators, and families face unprecedented challenges—from the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis to the systemic racism that has held back too many students for too long. We look forward to partnering with Secretary-designate Miguel Cardona in taking on these challenges together.
“As a former public-school teacher, he understands what’s at stake for students and promises to respect the voice of educators as we work to safely reopen school buildings, colleges, and university campuses, while also forging a path to transform public education into a racially and socially just and equitable system that is designed to prepare every student to succeed in a diverse and interdependent world.
“Dr. Cardona will help fulfill President-elect Biden’s promises to make community college free, tackle the student debt crisis, and enable college graduates to pursue careers in education and public service by expanding and simplifying the Public Service Loan Forgiveness and Teacher Loan Forgiveness programs.
“Secretary-designate Cardona is someone who respects educators as the professionals that they are, will listen to our experiences as the people who know the names of our students, and ensure that we have a voice in developing and implementing education policy.
“As someone who has experience as a fourth-grade teacher in a public school classroom and later being named Connecticut’s principal of the year, he understands that educators go above and beyond to help students succeed.
“Through his lived experiences and work as an educator, Secretary-designate Cardona knows that we must make improvements for our students both inside and outside the ‘schoolhouse’ by tackling issues such as ‘housing insecurity, hunger, and economic instability,’ to help our students succeed.
“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. And he will work collaboratively to promote proven education models such as community schools and policies that provide whole student support.
“Secretary-designate Cardona has the compassion and life experiences that are needed as the next secretary of education and I look forward to partnering with him to ensure every student gets what they need and deserve.”