Senate confirms Miguel Cardona to lead education department. Here are 5 things you should know about him.
The U.S. Senate voted to confirm President Joe Biden's pick to lead the Department of Education.
The new Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, is a longtime educator, a proponent of canceling student loan debt, and a teachers' union ally.
The U.S. Senate voted Monday 64-33 to confirm Miguel Cardona, who has served as Connecticut’s Education Commissioner since 2019, as President Joe Biden’s Secretary of Education.
Cardona, a former teacher who became Connecticut’s youngest principal at age 27, testified before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on February 3. Based on the hearing, and on Cardona’s past actions in education, here are five things to expect from Cardona as Education Secretary:
Nationalizing Some Portion of Student Debt
President Biden’s pick for Education Secretary will face ongoing pressure from the Left to cancel student loan debt. Biden proposed nationalizing $10,000 in student loan debt per borrower via an act of Congress, but Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other far-left members of Congress want to increase that number to $50,000 and bypass Congress. According to CBS News, Cardona voiced his full support for Biden’s plan, but also hinted that this debt proposal may be means-tested, saying, “We have to assess the damage that [federal student loan debt] is causing…and make sure we’re targeting the support for students who need it most.”
A Contentious Debate on Transgender Athletes
Multiple lawmakers, including Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Sen Mitt Romney (R-Utah), asked Cardona whether or not biologically male athletes who identify as transgender women should be permitted to compete in women’s sports. While he refused to take a definitive stance, he said that transgender students deserve “the opportunities that every other student has to participate in extracurricular activities.” But that doesn’t answer the question; transgender athletes have always been permitted to compete according to their biological sex. The debate now is whether they should be permitted to compete on teams that do not match their biological sex.
A Complicated Relationship with Teachers’ Unions
Connecticut’s Democratic governor pushed for all schools to reopen in the fall, but he stopped just short of requiring it. According to Chalkbeat, Cardona shared the state’s school reopening guide with the American Federation of Teachers’ state chapter before releasing it to the general public. In return, the union gave him an advance look at its statement in response to the guide - an unusual step, given that the statement was very critical of the push to get teachers back to school.
Special Concern for Multiculturalism
When asked about supporting English Language Learners, Cardona expanded beyond the issue of language, saying, “Not only should we be encouraging...bilingualism, but also we should be acknowledging not only bilingualism but biculturalism...We honor students’ bilingualism while also honoring their culture.”
As of 2017, the most recent year for which data is available, more than 1 out of every 10 American K-12 students was an English Language Learner. In California, Texas, New Mexico, and Nevada, the proportion of English Language Learners is closer to 2 in 10.
Changes to Student Loan Administration
Cardona agreed with Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s recommendation “to reform [Federal Student Aid] so it works for student borrowers instead of for big corporations.” This belies a likely misunderstanding of Federal Student Aid and how it works currently.
Since December 2017, Federal Student Aid (FSA) has been pursuing its Next Gen initiative, which has already resulted in major changes that help borrowers. For instance, FSA debuted its new “digital front door” in 2019, including a loan simulator that allows borrowers to see how different actions would impact their repayment process. At the end of the Trump administration, further improvements were ongoing.
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