Biden’s Education Secretary pick is a ‘clever play’ to balance various interests

President-elect Joe Biden named Miguel Cardona, a former public school teacher and current Connecticut Education Commissioner, as the next secretary of the US Department of Education on Tuesday.
Rick Hess, an educational policy expert at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute, said the move was "smart" as it wouldn't attract any attention from Democrats or Republicans.
"I don't think he's very well known on the national stage, which can be good or bad. But it's a relatively smart game," Hess told Yahoo Finance. "Given the box Biden was in, the unions want a deregistration, but he doesn't want to look like a union prisoner or alienate interests." Cardona seems like a good solution. "
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The Puerto Rican Cardona has a long history in education starting as a primary school teacher and later as a school principal for 10 years. The Connecticut governor named him the state's education commissioner in August 2019.
Miguel Cardona. (Photo: University of Connecticut / Shawn Kornegay / Ryan Glista)
"As an educator, administrator and parent of a public school, Dr. Cardona has a proven track record as an innovative leader who will fight for all students and for a better, fairer and more successful education system," the Biden-Harris team said in a statement that he "will surely make it a national priority to get students of all ages and in every community safely back into class".
Cardona will lead current ED Secretary Betsy DeVos, who has held the position for Trump's entire presidency and implemented policies that have been repeatedly attacked by Democrats.
And while DeVos pushed for schools to reopen in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, “the national strategy was missing,” Mark Ojakian, president of Connecticut's system of state colleges and universities since 2015, told Yahoo Finance. “In Connecticut, we opened our institutions extremely well and had very few cases compared to the rest of the country. I think the other parts of the country could benefit from a more strategic roadmap on how to get there, leaving the details to each state. "
Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association (NEA), said Cardona's previous experience as a former public school teacher would aid the reopening process because "he understands what students are about and promises to respect the voice of educators ".
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos participates in Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Pandemic Response to Reopen Schools announced by U.S. President Donald Trump on August 12, 2020 at the White House in Washington (USA) were held.
balancing act
As Hess noted, Biden's choice was a difficult one for ED: Biden's team had to make a choice that would not only appease the unions, but also someone rightfully palatable.
In Cardona the compromise was clear. Not only is he "an experienced educator, he comes from a deep blue state, the union gave him a thumbs up, but there is also nothing that really distinguishes him as one side or the other of democratic reform," explained Hess. "So it's very similar when a president nominates a Supreme Court judge without a paper trail. If you want to avoid a fight, nominate someone who doesn't have a long track record."
Those who have worked with Cardona in Connecticut firsthand said they had a great experience with him.
"I know Miguel because I believe I've spent my entire tenure as president of the university system," Ojakian told Yahoo Finance. "I couldn't have been more excited that he got this appointment. He's a great leader in Connecticut and I'm confident he will be a great leader in Washington."
The U.S. Department of Education building is pictured in Washington on Monday, July 13, 2020. (Photo by Caroline Brehman / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
Ojakian added that he worked with Cardona as superintendent on a variety of topics including double enrollment, which allows students to take courses at colleges, and other endeavors from K-12 to higher education. And when the coronavirus pandemic hit, Ojakian said Cardona worked closely with him and others to reopen schools and campuses and prepare teachers.
At the same time, experts from across the education sector welcomed the appointment.
Former Secretary of Education John B. King Jr., who served in the Obama administration, said Cardona's "Connecticut leadership shows a deep commitment to educational equity and diversity" and will help reduce "persistent gaps in opportunity for color and low-grade students Level close. " - income backgrounds. "
The President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Randi Weingarten, who many also selected as a potential candidate, said Cardona's skills would represent a welcome departure from Betsy DeVos'.
Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, speaks to a crowd of striking educators at Capital High School in Charleston, West Virginia, the United States, Feb. 19, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS / Lexi Browning)
"Miguel Cardona is not just a proud product of public schools - he's made it his mission to empower public education and fight for justice," she said. "With his experience as a student, fourth grade teacher, principal, assistant superintendent and commissioner in Connecticut, Dr. Cardona - a former AFT member - reshaping the education department to help students thrive, reversing the DeVos disaster of the past four years. "
Weingarten also drew on her relationship with Cardona during his time in the Meriden, Connecticut School District. "His deep respect for educators and their unions will travel with him to Washington - and this commitment to working together is critical to delivering the resources and social and emotional support needed to reopen schools safely," she added.
NEA's Pringle said she was looking forward to working with Cardona: “In these difficult times, students, educators and families face unprecedented challenges - from the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis to the systemic racism that is holding back too many students has been too long. We look forward to working with Secretary-Designate Miguel Cardona to jointly address these challenges. "
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Aarthi Swaminathan is a reporter for Yahoo Finance who deals with education. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @aarthiswami.
Reggie Wade is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @ReggieWade.
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