Education Secretary nominee Miguel Cardona gave testimony about his plans for reopening schools and other top educational priorities during a hearing on Wednesday before the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
Cardona, a political newcomer who has served as Connecticut’s education commissioner for the past year and a half, argued in favor of reopening schools, stating that the pandemic “has exacerbated inequities within our educational system.”
“These inequities will endure and prevent the potential of this great country unless tackled head-on and so it is our responsibility, and it would be my greatest privilege, if confirmed, to forge opportunity out of this crisis,” Cardona testified.
“There is a saying in Spanish: En la unión está la fuerza. In unity there is strength. We gain strength from joining together.“ – @teachcardona.
— ED Press Secretary (@EDPressSec) February 3, 2021
Cardona said he is committed to working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to establish and adhere to science-backed guidance to ensure school reopenings are safe. These measures would include utilizing mitigation strategies, prioritizing public and private educators for vaccinations, and establishing COVID-19 surveillance testing — a tracking method that tests random non-symptomatic individuals in communities.
The hearing also touched on several higher education issues, including student loan debt forgiveness. When pressed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) on his stance on the matter, Cardona reiterated his support for loan forgiveness but did not provide further details.
On the topic of transgender athletes participating in athletic teams that correspond with their gender, Cardona said he believed “schools should offer the opportunity for students to engage in extracurricular activities even if they’re transgender — I think that’s their right.”
Cardona also vocalized his support for community colleges and trade schools for young adults who may not be able to afford more expensive higher education options, using his own experience studying automotive tech as an example. He further stated that community colleges “are critically important to not only rebuilding after the pandemic but really just our plan forward in education.”
“Investing in public education changes lives and saves lives,” Cardona said. “I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it. And I know that our challenges ahead are problems we can overcome together.”
Cardona, who is of Puerto Rican descent and was nominated by President Joe Biden in December, will be the second Latino in U.S. history to be named secretary of education if confirmed by the Senate.