Updated: March 4, 2021
U.S. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris on Wednesday introduced their nominee for Secretary of Education, Dr. Miguel Cardona.
Biden and Harris both praised Cardona at an event in Wilmington, Delaware, saying the former public school teacher, experienced administrator, public school parent, and leader will lead on day one.
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He is expected to implement the president-elect’s bold education agenda, starting with investing in all students, supporting educators, and making reopening schools safely a national priority.
“Today, I’m pleased to announce such a nominee in Dr. Miguel Cardona. Like the other Cabinet nominees and appointments, he is brilliant, qualified, and tested,”Biden said in his remarks while introducing him.
Vice President-elect Harris described Dr. Miguel Cardona as not only a seasoned public servant, but also a former public school teacher and administrator with experience in the classroom.
“And he knows what our students, teachers, and schools need to be successful,” she said.
“He has dedicated his career to fighting for our children. And he has a deep belief in the power of a world-class education to help every child, everywhere, overcome barriers of race, gender, or income to reach their God-given potential.
“Dr. Cardona represents the very best of our nation and he is the kind of leader America’s students, educators, and families deserve,” added Harris.
Dr. Miguel Cardona accepted the nomination, promising to provide equal opportunities for all American students.
Biden’s full remarks in Wilmington, Delaware:
I’m Joe Biden, Dr. Jill Biden’s husband.
Just like educators everywhere, being an educator isn’t what she does.
It’s who she is.
During this pandemic we’ve seen once again who our educators are.
Cut from a true cloth of character and commitment.
They represent one of the most critical professions in America.
From cradle to career, they give people of all ages the confidence to believe in themselves and equip them to succeed.
And as Jill says, any country that out-educates us will out-compete us.
And in this critical moment in our nation’s history, it’s essential that there is an educator serving as Secretary of Education.
Today, I’m pleased to announce such a nominee in Dr. Miguel Cardona.
Like the other Cabinet nominees and appointments, he is brilliant, qualified, and tested.
And he will join a Biden-Harris Cabinet that will be a historic Cabinet.
Already there are more people of color in this Cabinet than in the history of the United States.
There are more women than ever.
The first openly gay Cabinet member.
It’s a Cabinet that looks like America.
That taps into the best of America.
That opens doors and includes the full range of talents we have in this nation.
And like the rest of the team, Dr. Cardona is ready on Day One.
Vice President-elect Harris and I knew we needed an Education Secretary who truly understands what it’s been like for educators, administrators, families, caregivers, and students this past year.
The stretched local budgets that have left educators out of work.
The mixed signals from the White House that have left more confusion than calm, that have left so many parents and schools feeling like they’re on their own.
But we also need someone who knows what it takes to get us through this crisis.
Reopening schools safely will be a national priority in a Biden-Harris Administration.
Early next year, I will put before the Congress our plans for what comes next.
That includes funding to keep educators on the job just like we did during the Recovery Act that saved 400,000 education jobs.
And it includes asking Congress to provide the funding needed so we can achieve an ambitious but doable goal — of safely opening a majority of schools by the end of our first 100 days.
We can do it if states and cities put strong public health measures in place that we all follow.
For example, in our first 100 days, I’ll be asking all Americans to mask up for 100 days.
We’ll require masks in federal buildings and interstate travel, like on trains.
And we’ve been talking with county executives, mayors, and governors of both parties to do the same in cities and states.
We can do it if we get schools, districts, communities, and states — the clear guidance and resources they need for so many things that aren’t in their already tight budgets.
They need funding for testing to help reopen schools.
More funding for transportation so students can maintain social distancing on buses.
They need it for school buildings, for additional cleaning services, protective equipment, and
But to lead the national effort requires an Education Secretary with the skills to partner with educators and state, local, and tribal officials, students, and families.
It also requires someone who understands the need to prevent the pandemic from further exacerbating the inequities in our education system that represent a compounding problem.
They hold back children.
They hold back educators.
They hold back our country from fulfilling its potential.
Take remote learning.
How can it be in America that a parent must drive to the parking lot of a coffee shop or library for WiFi they can’t afford at home so their children can sit in the car to participate in class or do their homework?
This gap of broadband technology and opportunity could cost some kids a full year or more of learning.
That’s unacceptable in the United States of America.
We need to act now. But it’s only just the start.
We need someone with the experience to help us build back better with the Biden-Harris education plan.
We need to make sure every child in this nation has access to a good education — regardless of their zip code, 0r regardless of their disability.
That’s why my plan triples funding for Title I schools, which serve the highest number of children from low-income families.
We need to make sure every child will have access to high-quality universal pre-K.
We need to finally pay teachers what they deserve.
The work they do is of extreme national importance — their salaries should reflect that.
But they can’t do it alone.
So we’re going to make an unprecedented investment: to double the number of school psychologists, counselors, nurses, and social workers in our schools.
When trained professionals are helping care for students’ mental health and behavioral needs along with concerns around things like housing and food, it frees up educators to focus on teaching and the other critical work they do in the classroom.
We’ll make sure students with disabilities have the support to succeed by fully funding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
We’ll upgrade school infrastructure to make sure classrooms are safe, and build schools that are hubs of innovation and cutting-edge learning.
We know that in the 21st Century 12 years of school isn’t enough.
And that young people are getting crushed by the burden of student debt.
Under our legislative plan, we have a number of policies to provide affordable higher education and alleviate that financial burden.
This includes anyone able to get into community college will be able to go for free.
Public colleges and universities will be tuition-free for families earning less than $125,000 a year.
We’ll cut student loan payments by half for those using income-based repayment. If you’re making $25,000 or less per year, you won’t owe a dime in payments or interest. If you make more than that, you’ll only pay a small percentage of your income.
Our legislative plan also means that if you choose to go into public service, whether you’re a teacher, a paramedic, counseling victims of domestic violence, or whatever else, it’s only right that your country wipe out your student debt altogether.
And it includes forgiving debt from undergraduate public tuition if you’re earning less than $125,000 a year.
And it means immediately forgiving $10,000 in student debt in the midst of this economic crisis.
We’ll also invest more than $70 billion in Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions to help prepare their graduates like our Vice President-elect for good-paying jobs in industries of the future.
There is so much we can do.
We can build an economy that eases the financial burden of the caregiving crisis and make sure working families don’t pay more than 7% of their income on child care for their young children.
And like we did during the Obama-Biden Administration, we can combat campus sexual assault under Title IX — something the Trump Administration and the current Secretary of Education have only undermined.
The bottom line is we can achieve all of these critical things but we need someone who gets that
education isn’t just what we do as a nation.
It’s who we are.
And that’s the person I am proud to announce today.
For Secretary of Education, I nominate Dr. Miguel Cardona.
A fourth-grade public school teacher.
The youngest principal in the state of Connecticut.
And its first Latino official to serve as Education Commissioner.
Dr. Cardona rose up the ranks to become assistant superintendent in the same school district he attended as an English learner student.
The same district where he was born in public housing, the son and grandson of parents and grandparents who moved from Puerto Rico in search of new opportunities.
He made a point of taking new teachers on tours of his district’s neighborhoods.
The wealthy blocks where students grew up with every resource they needed to get ahead.
And the blocks where families were struggling to get by where a new calculator or a nutritious breakfast weren’t a given.
He understands the deep roots of inequity as the sources of our persistent opportunity gaps.
And he understands the transformative power that comes from investing in public education.
In our conversations, Dr. Cardona talked about how public education was his great equalizer.
It gave him a chance to reach the dream his parents and grandparents had for him.
The place where a high school teacher inspired him to be an educator.
Public education that helped Miguel become the first in his family to go to college.
The first to earn a doctorate.
And with that preparation and grounding, Dr. Cardona has brought his heart, knowledge, and passion for education to bear on behalf of all students across Connecticut.
And when the pandemic struck, he was ready.
He helped secure more than 140,000 laptops and more than 40,000 internet connections for students who lacked them.
Because of him, Connecticut became the first state in the nation to ensure that every single public school student was equipped to engage in remote learning, regardless of family income.
As the months passed, he followed health guidance and got the funding and resources to provide masks, plexiglass, and testing so schools could reopen and operate safely.
That’s the vision, resolve, and initiative that will also help us contain the pandemic, reopen schools safely, and build back better.
And it’s the standard of care that comes from having taught in a classroom, and that comes from a hardworking family who found their way in America through public education.
It comes from someone who knows from his core that our nation’s children are the kite strings that keep our national ambitions aloft.
He is the Secretary of Education for this moment.
I thank him and his family for accepting this call to serve.
We could not do this without them or him.
To the career staff of the Department of Education, you will have a fantastic and trusted leader who will help you carry out your Department’s mission with the honor and integrity of an educator.
And to the American people — to educators, families, caregivers, and students — help is on the way.
I wish all of you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday.
May God bless you all.
And may God protect our troops.
I’ll now turn it over to the next Secretary of Education, Dr. Miguel Cardona.
Full remarks by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in Wilmington, Delaware
My first grade teacher, Mrs. Frances Wilson, attended my law school graduation.
She taught our first grade class with two teachers’ aides and 22 students in the classroom.
And she instilled in me a deep belief in the importance and significance of public education that I carry with me to this day.
If we are going to fulfill our country’s promise, we must be dedicated to a strong public education system.
We must value it. We must strengthen it. And we must invest in it.
Because one of the most important gifts a society can give its young people is the gift of a world-class education.
We also know that right now, our education system — from early learning centers, to colleges and universities — is reeling from this pandemic.
Parents and educators are being stretched to their limits — and so are the cafeteria workers, bus drivers, custodians, and nurses who keep our schools running.
Students at colleges and technical colleges now worry about losing credits, losing financial aid, and losing income from working on campus.
And all the disruption is taking a heavy toll on the mental health and well-being of students of all ages who risk falling behind.
At the same time, this pandemic threatens to widen disparities between students of different races and backgrounds, making it harder for those who were already behind to keep up.
So, first things first.
We need to get this virus under control and reopen our schools safely. That is why the president-elect and I supported funding for our education system in the recently passed COVID-19 relief legislation. And we will continue to fight for additional emergency relief for our educators and schools.
And even as we do, we must also build a public education system that lifts up all Americans, regardless of race, background, or ZIP code. An education system that prepares them with the knowledge and skills to thrive in a 21st century economy.
We must make sure our children are getting the foundation that’s so important for lifelong success.
We must end the current status quo where school districts with the greatest needs get the fewest resources.
And we must remove barriers to opportunity for poor and rural communities and communities of color.
The leader we are announcing today will help us do that and unlock the power of an education for all Americans.
Dr. Miguel Cardona is not only a seasoned public servant, he is also a former public school teacher and administrator with experience in the classroom. And he knows what our students, teachers, and schools need to be successful.
He has dedicated his career to fighting for our children. And he has a deep belief in the power of a world-class education to help every child, everywhere, overcome barriers of race, gender, or income to reach their God-given potential.
Dr. Cardona represents the very best of our nation and he is the kind of leader America’s students, educators, and families deserve.
I’ve always believed that government has three principal functions: Public health. Public safety. And public education.
Over the past few weeks, we have announced remarkable leaders who will help contain this pandemic and keep the American people safe and secure.
Under Dr. Cardona’s leadership, we will work together to put an outstanding education within reach for everyone — breaking down barriers to equality, opening new paths to opportunity, and helping fulfill America’s promise to all our children.
Thank you, Mr. President-elect.
Full remarks by Nominee for Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona in Wilmington, Delaware
Mr. President-elect, Madam Vice President-elect — thank you for this opportunity to serve.
I know just how challenging this year has been for students, for educators, and for parents.
I’ve lived those challenges alongside millions of American families — not only in my role as a state education commissioner, but as a public school parent and as a former public school classroom teacher.
For so many of our schools and far too many of our students, this unprecedented year has piled on crisis after crisis.
It has taken some of our most painful, longstanding disparities and wrenched them open even wider.
It has taxed our teachers, our leaders, our school professionals and staff who already pour so much of themselves into their work.
It has taxed families struggling to adapt to new routines as they balance the stress, pain, and loss this year has inflicted.
It has taxed young adults trying to chase their dreams to advance their education beyond high school, and carve out their place in the economy of tomorrow.
And it has stolen time from our children who have lost something sacred and irreplaceable this year despite the heroic efforts of so many of our nation’s educators.
Though we are beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel, we also know that this crisis is ongoing, that we will carry its impacts for years to come, and that the problems and inequities that have plagued our education system since long before COVID will still be with us even after the virus is at bay.
And so it is our responsibility now, and our privilege to take this moment, and do the most American thing imaginable: to forge opportunity out of crisis.
To draw on our resolve, our ingenuity, and our tireless optimism as a people, and build something better than we’ve ever known before.
That’s the choice Americans make every day — it’s the choice that defines us as Americans.
It’s the choice my grandparents made, Avelino and Maria de La Paz Cardona, and Germana Muniz Rosa, when they made their way from Aguada, Puerto Rico, for new opportunities in Connecticut.
I was born in the Yale Acres housing projects. That’s where my parents, Hector and Sara Cardona, instilled early on the importance of hard work, service to community, and education.
I was blessed to attend public schools in my hometown of Meriden, Connecticut, where I was able to expand my horizons, become the first in my family to graduate college, and become a teacher, principal, and assistant superintendent in the same community that gave me so much.
That is the power of America — in two generations.
And I, being bilingual and bicultural, am as American as apple pie and rice and beans.
For me, education was the great equalizer. But 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 have allowed what the educational scholar Pedro Noguera calls the “normalization of failure” to hold back too many of America’s children.
For far too long, we’ve allowed students to graduate from high school without any idea of how to meaningfully engage in the workforce while good-paying high-skilled, technical, and trade jobs go unfilled.
For far too long, we’ve spent money on interventions and bandaids to address disparities instead of laying a wide, strong foundation of quality, universal early childhood education, and quality social and emotional supports for all of our learners.
For far too long, we’ve let college become inaccessible to too many Americans for reasons that have nothing to do with their aptitude or their aspirations and everything to do with cost burdens, and, unfortunately, an internalized culture of low expectations.
For far too long, we’ve worked in silos, failing to share our breakthroughs and successes in education — we need schools to be places of innovation, knowing that this country was built on innovation.
And for far too long, the teaching profession has been kicked around and not given the respect it deserves.
It should not take a pandemic for us to realize how important teachers are this country.
There are no shortage of challenges ahead, no shortage of problems for us to solve.
But by the same token, there are countless opportunities for us to seize.
We must embrace the opportunity to reimagine education — and build it back better.
We must evolve it to meet the needs of our students.
There is a saying in Spanish: En La Unión Está La Fuerza.
We gain strength from joining together.
In that spirit, I look forward to sitting at the table with educators, parents, caregivers, students, advocates, and state, local, and tribal leaders.
There is no higher duty for a nation than to build better paths, better futures for the next generation to explore.
For too many students, public education in America has been a flor pálida: a wilted rose, neglected, in need of care.
We must be the master gardeners who cultivate it, who work every day to preserve its beauty and its purpose.
I am grateful for the chance to take on this responsibility. And I’m grateful to my own children — Miguel Jr., or, as we call him, Angelito, and my daughter Celine, and to my wife and best friend, Marissa — herself a middle school Family School Liaison.
And I am grateful for the trust you’ve placed in me, Mr. President-elect and Madam Vice President-elect.
I look forward to getting to work on behalf of all America’s children — and the families, communities, and nation they will grow up to inherit and lead.