Editorial: Incoming education secretary Miguel Cardona understands the system in ways Betsy DeVos never could

President-elect Joe Biden’s selection of Connecticut Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona as education secretary suggests a sharper focus on the achievement gap in American public schools. As a product of public schools who learned to speak English in elementary school, Cardona personally understands the system in ways billionaire Betsy DeVos never could. As a young teacher and the youngest principal in his state at the age of 28, he has also been passionate about trying to close the education gaps between Latino and Black students and those of White and Asian descent. That effort will be more important than ever given evidence that students from poor families have been particularly devastated by distance learning during this pandemic. The achievement gap mustn’t grow. As the third Latino education secretary, he can help.

How strong of a voice Cardona will be for education reform remains to be seen. Like Democratic Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton before him, perhaps Biden will set his sights on reforms. The status quo isn’t working for too many students, as Cardona could tell you. But Cardona won’t have much time for a learning curve. He’ll have to focus quickly on reopening the nation’s schools. He has “clashed,” per the reporting of the Los Angeles Times, with teachers over wanting to keep schools open during the pandemic, and Biden has expressed impatience with reopening delays as well. Both leaders will have to approach this issue without the political gamesmanship that the Trump administration showed at times. Balancing student and teacher health and safety is vital, but so is ensuring the pandemic generation doesn’t fall behind.

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