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New Secretary of Education: Can a Democrat Handle This Job?

The New Department of Education

The Department of Education oversees the federal Office of Education, the main agency that provides direct federal funding to elementary, secondary, and higher education. The Office of Education encompasses several federal student aid programs, including the Pell and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant.

In early January of this year, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who has clashed with many colleagues, announced her resignation, effective in June. Her successor, a longtime friend and ally of former vice president Joe Biden, will have to navigate the tricky political climate in Washington while continuing the department’s work – Miguel Cordona.

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Who Is the New Secretary of Education and Why Such a Dramatic Change

The Connecticut State Commissioner for Education and the appointment of President-elect Biden as Minister of Education, Miguel Cardona, are in many ways the opposite of the previous Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. Unlike DeVos, Cardona attended a public school, including technical colleges. He is a BA, MA, EdD graduate from Connecticut state university. But does that mean he’s immediately more competent for the position? 

Triggered by the sheer impact of the COVID pandemic on specific communities, Governor of Cardona and Governor of Connecticut Ned Lamont stated that he has acquired more than 140,000 laptops to take care of every student in the state and make sure their online learning process is as smooth as possible.

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Controversy and Chaos

Cardona’s candidacy was not without controversy. As long as Joe Biden is the President, he promises to nominate a cabinet professor. For some, Cardonas fell short of that promise during his five years teaching kids in the elementary before heading into administrative work. Connecticut teachers have also criticized Cardona for stating that schools must remain open to provide irreplaceable interaction between teachers and students. 

Starting small, like Connecticut, and moving on to the state matters can be problematic for some. Biden promised, in the period of 100 days of his reign, to open schools and colleges. The safety of teachers and students was, in a way, prophesied by him, claiming results just to keep his own personal record of sorts.

Some might argue that teachers’ unions are an obstacle for administrators and governments to change the school system. While unions are right in some respects, in other cases, unions provide political protection when the public insists on an unattractive opportunity; the administration can point to the union and say, “We would like to consider this change, but the union, unfortunately, does not want to.”

Some say it takes time and dedication to repair Betsy Devos’s damage to American schools, particularly ​​civil rights. In its first two years as Minister of Education, the Devos government underwent more than 1,200 civil rights checks. Their first action in 2017 was to remove protections for transgender students.

The pandemic made significant changes in students’ lives all over the globe. However, it also provides a rare opportunity for educational leaders to restructure how we raise our children. 

What About the Pandemic

Colleges spend money. Student debt is increasing. Students have difficulty dealing with online classes. Congress is discussing another major coronavirus relief package that, if President Joe Biden’s proposal is accepted, would allegedly send $130 billion to schools.

About 72 percent of students in the United States attend schools that offer full or partial private education, and about 27% attend virtual learning specialty schools – a number that has declined in recent weeks as wider areas of focus are opening up.

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Many great teacher unions refuse to open classrooms because they believe their territory cannot do so safely. But now more deals have been made. In Chicago, after a debate, students regained their rights to education in person. Philadelphia officials have just announced that they will begin returning students to private training next week. 

Cardona Is a “Slap in the Face”

During the campaign, President Biden promised to choose a “teacher” to replace current Education Minister Betsy DeVos, who has no work experience in schools or classrooms.

On the contrary, Cardona started teaching elementary before moving into the field of administration, including as principal and vice-principal. A Connecticut Governor, Ned Lamont, appointed him to the position he’s now doing in August of 2019.

“Commissioner Cardona was a teacher in Meriden, Connecticut for about five years and quickly climbed the ladder from there. He only served as Connecticut Education Officer for about a year or so,” said Nicole Rizzo, a Connecticut elementary school teacher. 

Salt says it’s difficult for an educator who considers work with children unfamiliar – ever since all of the people in the education system were economically impacted by the pandemic to know what and when to expect for entering the educational period after the pandemic.

“I feel like a slap in the face for a number of reasons, and I think the biggest and most important reason is that teaching discouraged many of my colleagues during the last recession,” Salt said. “We expect the situation to get worse. We need someone to replace the school secretary who worked as a classroom teacher in the building during the last recession.”

The school opening indicators proposed by him and the governor were constantly revised without explanation. Many of these schools lack basic resources,” including personal protective equipment and disinfectant products.

In a letter to Biden and Linda Darling-Hammond, who lead the campaign’s education team, CTPS lawyers urged Biden not to vote for Cardona, arguing that his plans to reopen would endanger the health of teachers and students.

Is Biden Behind Everything Cardona Does

The reality is that Biden will dictate his agenda. Unfortunately, it is not Cardona’s policies in Connecticut that will serve as Biden’s head of education, but progressive policies targeting the president’s union. And that’s why many voted against his inauguration on the committee and will vote against him in the Senate.

Here’s what Tim Scott, a Republican senator from South Carolina, said about the whole situation:

“I have great respect for Cardona’s background — we share similar life stories that have shaped who we are and have brought us from poverty to the highest levels of public service. And while I commend him for his personal success, if Cardona follows the Biden plan to pit teacher unions against parents and students, our kids will never get the education they truly deserve.”

Final Thoughts

The federal government plays a subordinate role in the education of children 12 years of age and older, although most funding and decision-making power rest with federal states and municipalities. In this case, for example, Cardona would not have the right to demand the opening of schools in Chicago or Washington, two cities where classrooms remain closed for private learning while teachers and administrators fight for safety standards.

But with the alleged $1.9 trillion stimulus package and a president looking to triple Title I funding for poor students and top federal spending on students with disabilities, Cardona is a potential historic investor in education – which we’ll have to see to believe. 

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