President Biden’s pick to lead the Department of Education, Miguel Cardona, was confirmed on Monday, amid mounting pressure on the administration to stand up to the teachers unions and get kids back in class.
The Senate voted 64-33 to confirm Cardona, a former public school teacher and principal who went on to become Connecticut’s education chief.
Cardona, 45, has previously vowed to make getting kids back into classrooms a top priority.
At his Senate confirmation hearing last month, he said that there are “great examples throughout our country of schools that have been able to reopen safely” amid the coronavirus pandemic.
While his position carries limited authority to force schools to reopen, Cardona will play a key role in achieving Biden’s stated goal of reopening the majority of K-8 schools five days a week within his first 100 days in office.
He will be tasked with setting up reopening guidelines for local school districts and sharing best practices for how to teach during the pandemic.
Cardona will also be tasked with helping school address the damage that remote instruction has done on student learning.
He has previously called on schools to expand summer academic programs and hire more counselors to help students with mental health issues.
Biden has been under growing pressure to use his influence to get kids back to class, while also facing pushback from the powerful teacher’s unions that helped put him in the White House.
The president has said his goal is possible if Congress approves his massive relief bill, which includes $130 billion for the nation’s schools.
The administration has sought to downplay Biden’s role in both establishing federal guidelines for school reopening and in pressuring the teachers’ unions to get their members back into classrooms.
“The role the president can play is to work with Congress to get to the necessary funding. That is the role he can really play,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki said last month.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week released a guide for the phased reopening of schools. The agency said mask-wearing and social distancing should be used, but that vaccinating teachers wasn’t a prerequisite.
With Post wires