Miguel Cardona Confirmed as Education Secretary

Needless to say, 2020 brought a myriad of unexpected challenges across the globe and in the United States and now that we have entered a new year, we are collectively as a nation, and as individuals, hoping for a better 2021. It is undeniable that many parts of our society have been affected one way or another by this past year. The future of quality education throughout the United States is no exception. Now that 2021 is upon us, and there is a new administration taking office, we will be looking into what this may mean for the future of education, during and post pandemic. 

President Joe Biden has formally announced his cabinet which has the most people of color and most female representation in history, as well as the first openly gay Cabinet member. As an organization rooted in promoting diversity, this is definitely something to celebrate! The Cabinet member that has us excited and will have an immediate impact on our organization and our kids is Biden’s pick for Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona.

Who is Miguel Cardona? 

Cardona was born to Puerto Rican parents who migrated to the United States. He grew up in Connecticut and in public housing. As a child, he attended the local public school and was an English Language learner.  This has influenced his focus and desire to close the gaps that ELL students have compared to their classmates. He was the first person in his family to attend college, became a public school fourth grade teacher, and later served as a principal for 10 years. In summary,  he has first-hand experience in the public school system in the United States and knows its weaknesses. He not only attended a public school himself but also was an educator and administrator. 

Cardona is entering this position in one of the most important but also taxing times possibly in the history of the U.S.; during a pandemic that has affected the education system, children, and young adults within it, for nearly a full year now. It is no secret that there is a large equity gap in the U.S. education system that has continued to widen during this pandemic. Students around the country are struggling and those that reside in low-income communities are suffering the most. According to a U.S. census survey, conducted in April of 2020 “4.4 million households with students still lack consistent access to a computer and 3.7 million lack internet access.” Cardona as well as Biden acknowledge this disparity.  

Biden has spoken about increasing funding and recognizes that some parents have to drive their students to coffee shops just so they can attend school or turn in homework assignments. At Kids in the Game, we too have adjusted our program models to adapt to the unique online school climate. This year we opened Remote Learning Centers at multiple locations so parents had the flexibility to drop their kids off at a site and trust that their school work would get done in a positive environment. They were then able to work a full day, many being essential workers. 

Importantly, Cardona recognizes the essential challenges he is facing did not just become an issue with COVID-19, but have been systematic issues throughout the history of education in the U.S. 

“For too many students, your ZIP code and your skin color remain the best predictor of the opportunities you’ll have in your lifetime. We must embrace the opportunity to reimagine education — and build it back better.”

Cardona said, hopeful for change
Cardona pictured above in his 4th grade classroom in 1998.

Biden and Cardona’s COVID-related plans: 

  1. Reopening schools: President Biden and Cardona both stressed their desire to re-open schools, but made sure to emphasize that they want to safely re-open schools. Biden explained that he would like to have the majority of the schools in the U.S. open again by then end of the administration’s first 100 days. Biden further discussed that to do this they would need funding approved from congress to be able to provide more ventilation and cleaning services. 

Other Plans for the Education System: 

Both Cardona and Biden as well as Vice-President Kamala Harris are focused on addressing multiple equity gaps in the U.S.’ education system, including but not limited to:

  1. Increase funding for Title I schools: In his address, on December 23rd, Biden asks “How must it be in America that parents have to drive to a parking lot of a coffee shop or library for wifi that they cannot afford at home so that their kids can attend school?” To help address this problem as well as others faced by low-income families in the U.S they expressed their desire to provide triple-funding for Title I schools. 
  2. Mental Health Services: Biden proposed his plan to double the amount of school psychologists, therapists, and nurses in schools. This will give teachers the opportunity to focus more on teaching. 
  3. Increased funding for HBCUs:  Biden’s presidential campaign often emphasized their desire to narrow the inequity gaps within our education system. Now that Biden is the president-elect it is no different as he has proposed to invest $70 billion into HBCUs and other minority focused serving institutions. 
What does this mean for Kids in the Game?

We at Kids in the Game provide direct programming to public, private, and charter schools no matter what neighborhood. One of our main goals is to narrow the inequality gap within one of the most segregated cities in the country. It is exciting to see a Secretary of Education who wants the same. 

To read more about Biden as well as Cardona’s plan for education, you can click here.

Written by Sol Ashgarcia