Pick for U.S. Education Secretary: A top public school educator who is Hispanic

Miguel A. Cardona, current Education Commissioner in Connecticut and Joe Biden's pick for U.S. Education Secretary. The Bureau of Special Education’s 17th Annual Back to School Event in fall 2020. Credit: YouTube.

With a surging number of Hispanic students nationwide, President-elect Joe Biden has tapped top educator Miguel A. Cardona for the post of U.S. Education Secretary.

Currently state Commissioner of Education in Connecticut, Cardona had two decades of experience as a public school educator prior to the commissioner’s job. He’s worked as an elementary teacher, a principal and in other administrative jobs, according to a state bio from Connecticut.

When Connecticut lawmakers approved the commissioner’s appointment in early 2020, a top lawmaker remarked: “He is the first Latino ever…indeed, the first Puerto Rican” to become the state education commissioner, according to the Hartford Current. “It’s a historic moment for us.”

Biden’s pick for U.S. Secretary of Education came as numerous educators were in the running, including top teacher union officials, urban superintendents and other educators.

Top contenders appeared to be Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, and Lily Eskelsen García, who served as president of the National Education Association until she stepped down a few months ago.

Recently, there had been an uptick in news coverage about García, who also is Hispanic. In fact, she was the first-ever Latina at the National Education Association, the NEA said.

Public school enrollment, by race, has shifted over the years, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, with white and Black students declining and Hispanic students on the rise in public schools.

Currently, the nation’s school population in 2020 is 46.1 percent white; 15 percent Black; 27.5 percent Hispanic, 5.5 percent Asian, and 4.5 percent two or more races.

In a statement in an NEA news release, García said she proudly supports the nomination for Cardona.

She added: “There is much work to undo the damage, destruction, chaos and havoc wreaked on public education by Betsy DeVos during her tenure. Dr. Cardona will ensure that the federal government’s role in education is to provide access and opportunity for every student — no matter who they are, where they come from or where they live. He will defend our students’ civil rights and focus on the success of all students.

“All students deserve equitable access to opportunities that will determine the trajectory of their lives. The work of the U.S. Department of Education is to make the word ‘all’ mean all. I look forward to working collaboratively with Dr. Cardona to make this a reality.”

According to his Cardona’s state bio, he “attended Meriden Public Schools and graduated from Wilcox Technical High School. Miguel attended Central Connecticut State University for his bachelor’s degree and UConn, where he completed his master’s in bilingual/bicultural education, Administrator Preparation Program, doctorate in Education, and Executive Leadership Program (superintendent) certificate.”