Senate approves Cardona to head ED

Miguel Cardona, Connecticut's education commissioner who is President Biden's choice for U.S. education secretary, answers questions at his Senate confirmation in February. (Screenshot from online stream of event)

The Senate on Monday confirmed Miguel Cardona, Connecticut’s education commissioner, as secretary of the U.S. Education Department (ED) by a vote of 64 to 33.

Walter Bumphus, president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges, will meet with Cardona this week.

President Joe Biden’s pick for education secretary told the Senate education committee at his confirmation hearing last month that he would like to see students in middle school through high school have more opportunities to explore career and technical education programs to help inform them about potential occupations and postsecondary education choices. Cardona, a technical high school graduate, also noted the important role community colleges will play in the country’s economic recovery by providing access to an affordable, quality education that leads to good-paying careers.

At the hearing, he listed how he would work to ensure all students have education opportunities, including developing “college and career pathways to good futures,” and improving college access by “strengthening this nation’s best-kept secret: community colleges.”

‘No one better suited’

Prior to the Senate vote on Monday, several Democrats urged lawmakers to approve Cardona, noting his experience as a teacher and administrator which will serve him well in the top ED position. Both Connecticut senators noted that he understands the needs of English-as-a-second-language students and first-generation college students because he was one himself.

Sen. Christopher Murphy lauded Cardona’s work as commissioner in Connecticut during the pandemic. Connecticut was among the first states to reopen school based on his “consensus building” among stakeholders, a skill Cardona has refined, he said.

“There is no one better suited for this job at this moment than Miguel Cardona,” Murphy said.

Under Cardona, ED is also expected to reverse some regulatory actions taken by his predecessor, Betsy DeVos, including civil rights policy, sexual assault on college campuses and protections for student loan borrowers defrauded by for-profit colleges.

Other Cabinet nominees

The Senate is expected to vote on Tuesday on the nomination of Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo as commerce secretary. As governor, she supported the state’s community college, creating the Rhode Island Promise program in 2017. The program is set to expire with the class entering in September. Raimondo and Democratic state lawmakers have urged to make it permanent.

In addition, the Senate still must vote on the nomination of Marty Walsh, Biden’s pick for labor secretary. The Boston mayor is also a strong supporter of community colleges. The Senate has a packed schedule this week with work focused on the latest Covid relief bill, but it may find time to give Walsh a floor vote.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
is editor of Community College Daily and serves as publications director for the American Association of Community Colleges.