In a vote of 64 to 33, representing a large, bipartisan majority, the U.S. Senate today confirmed Miguel Cardona as U.S. Secretary of Education. The Meriden, Connecticut native’s confirmation means that an educator with decades of experience in public schools will now serve at the head of the U.S. Department of Education.
“The year ahead offers both potential and challenges, and we wish Secretary Cardona much success as he begins this new journey to lead the U.S. Department of Education,” said CEA President Jeff Leake.
During his confirmation hearing, Cardona stressed the need to prioritize educators for vaccination. In Connecticut, teachers and school staff are eligible to be vaccinated starting today.
Cardona emphasized that the burden of the pandemic on educators, students, and parents “has been tremendous,” and added, “We will ensure that our dedicated teachers are recognized for their great contributions to this country, and we will address inequities head on. Investing in public education changes lives and saves lives. I’ve seen it and lived it.”
As a growing number of Americans experience anxiety and depression related to COVID, Cardona was asked at his confirmation hearing how he would prioritize mental health for students.
“If we’re not thinking of reopening with mental health as a core, then we’re missing an opportunity,” Cardona said. “Let’s not lose this opportunity to make sure the mental health of students is a priority, with wraparound services and supports that families need. I look forward to moving this along in our country, and I’m pleased that President Biden’s funding plan includes school counselors. Students’ bandwidth diminishes if they’re worried about what’s happening at home.”
Crucially, he added, “Educators have also been through trauma. They take on the stressors our students are experiencing, so it’s critically important that we look at our educators’ needs as well.”
Governor Lamont has yet to nominate a new commissioner of education for Connecticut. He is expected to name an interim commissioner to serve until a permanent commissioner is nominated and confirmed.