Who Is Miguel Cardona, Biden’s Choice for Education Chief?

VOA Learning English • voa
Jan. 9, 2021 4 minSource

The United States will soon welcome Joe Biden as its new president.

The president-elect has already named several people to serve in government leadership positions. For example, Janet Yellin is his candidate for Secretary of the Treasury and General Lloyd Austin is his choice for Defense Secretary.

Biden also named Miguel Cardona as the new Secretary of Education. The 45-year-old man currently serves as education chief for the state of Connecticut. Biden has called Cardona “brilliant.”

Cardona grew up in government-supported housing in that state. His parents, who are from Puerto Rico, spoke Spanish to him. Cardona did not even speak English when he entered the public school system.

Cardona started his career in education as a fourth-grade teacher. He became the top administrator, or principal, of a Connecticut public school at the young age of 28.

As American as apple pie and rice and beans

He says his personal history has provided him a special understanding of the nation’s educational inequalities.

“I, being bilingual and bicultural, am as American as apple pie and rice and beans,” Cardona said.

Cardona was appointed education chief in Connecticut just months before the COVID-19 crisis began last year. When schools moved to distance learning, he hurried to get more than 100,000 laptop computers to students across the state. Since then, however, he has increasingly urged schools to reopen, saying it is harmful to keep students at home.

Cardona’s first duty in his new job will be to help public schools across the U.S. safely reopen. Biden has promised to have a majority of U.S. schools reopened within his first 100 days in office.

During the campaign, Biden also said he will work to get money to schools that are struggling. He plans to ask Cardona to help more young children get into preschool for free and to diversify the nation’s teaching force.

The outgoing Secretary writes a letter

If the U.S. Senate confirms Cardona, he will replace Trump appointee Betsy Devos in the position. Last week, the outgoing Secretary of Education wrote a letter to the U.S. Congress to say goodbye.

In the letter, DeVos said the coronavirus crisis showed many things that are “not encouraging” about the U.S. education system. She also said she will continue to work for students even after her service as Secretary is over.

DeVos is a major supporter of private education for Americans who want it. She sought policy that would give financial assistance to poorer students so they could attend private schools.

Devos argued that it was wrong to keep federal money from students who want to go a private high school while permitting federal money to go to students who attend a private university.

Her policy proposal failed.

DeVos, in her letter, asked Congress to reconsider her idea.

DeVos also pushed schools to reopen during the health crisis. However, the Education Department did not create national guidelines for reopening operations.

Biden has promised to withdraw or remake several of DeVos’ policies.

I'm Jill Robbins.

Dan Friedell adapted this story for Learning English based on stories by The Associated Press. Caty Weaver was the editor.

Words in This Story

brilliant- adj. extremely intelligent or impressive

bilingual – adj. speaking two or more languages

encouraging – adj. causing a hopeful feeling

diversify- v. to change something so it has more different kinds of people

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