WASHINGTON – The Senate on Monday lightly confirmed Miguel A. Cardona, a career educator who rose through the Connecticut education system to become the next education secretary to lead efforts to reopen schools with pandemic shutters.
His nomination was accepted with 64 votes to 33.
Dr. Cardona, tapped by President Biden to run the education division from his post as Connecticut Education Officer, had gone through a confirmatory hearing last month. He received bipartisan support for his success in reopening most of Connecticut’s schools and for his conciliatory positions on divisive education.
Dr. Cardona’s personal background and career – a sharp contrast to that of his predecessor Betsy DeVos, a billionaire private school master – received high praise.
The son of Puerto Rican parents, he grew up in public housing in Meriden, Connecticut, and attended public schools throughout his life. He started out as a struggling English learner and later became an elementary school teacher, award-winning school principal, assistant superintendent in that school system, and Connecticut’s first Latino education officer.
During his verification process, Dr. Cardona increased his identity and frequently switched between English and Spanish during public appearances.
“I’m bilingual and bicultural and as American as apple pie, rice and beans,” he said during his nomination speech in December when he was introduced by Mr Biden. A group from his hometown Put the quote on mugsand it’s become a fundraiser for a local scholarship fund.
Dr. Cardona pledged to lead the public schools through the worst public health crisis in a century that randomly brought millions of students to school for nearly a year and hit school districts with academic, psychological and budgetary setbacks.
Dr. Cardona told Senators last month that he “would do everything in my power to ensure that our rollout strategy for schools reopening includes communicating how to reopen safely.”
He also strongly endorsed the billions of dollars the Biden government is pushing to ensure schools have adequate security and staff to do so. “If we really want to recover we have to invest now or we will pay later,” he said.
The Senate’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions approved the nomination of Dr. Cardona advanced. Those in charge of both parties have expressed their confidence in two areas that have been challenging for Ms. DeVos: his qualifications and his willingness to work with Congress. During the hearing, he demonstrated knowledge of federal politics and the intricacies of class size. He also walked a fine line on questions that are tricky for both parties, including charter schools and standardized tests.
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The education post, once a quiet cabinet position, has become one of the most iconic and controversial jobs in the Trump administration.
From Dr. Cardona is expected to oversee an ambitious Biden government agenda to undo virtually everything the previous government did while pursuing new goals like providing large infusions of federal funds to the country’s public schools. The department also shrank significantly under the Trump administration, and morale was among the worst of any government agency.
In contrast to Ms. DeVos, Dr. Cardona has little experience in politics and is largely untested in the partisan struggles that await him.
In the only tense exchange with Republican lawmakers during his confirmation hearing, Dr. Cardona that he will not bow to any political pressure, especially that affecting civil rights. When asked if he would allow transgender female students to compete on sports teams with biological women – an issue that is sure to be the subject of political and judicial battles – he said that “Schools should offer students the opportunity to get out of school.” to engage in activities even if they are transgender. “
After hearing Dr. Cardona tweeted a short message – the only public statement he made while waiting for his final confirmatory vote. “Everything means everything,” he wrote.