Biden Introduces Miguel Cardona as His Pick for Education Chief

President-elect Joe Biden introduced Connecticut schools commissioner Miguel Cardona as his pick for education secretary, saying he was a “brilliant” educator with a tested record.

“Like the rest of the team, Dr. Cardona is qualified on Day One,” Biden said at an event in Wilmington, Delaware, calling Cardona’s nomination an easy choice.

“He’s a education secretary who truly understands” the difficulties facing families and schools struggling to teach children during the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden Introduces Miguel Cardona as His Pick for Education Chief

Biden said Cardona would be charged with implementing the new administration’s ambitious plans for education, including forgiving student debt.

“Our legislative plan means if you choose to go to into public service our country will wipe out your debt over time,” Biden said.

Cardona, a Latino, adds to the diversity of Biden’s cabinet, which he pledged would “look like America.” Lauro Cavazos, President Ronald Reagan’s Education secretary, was the first Latino in the job.

Cardona noted the pandemic had raised special challenges for education, but called on Americans to use the chance to improve conditions across the board.

“It’s our responsibility, it’s our privilege to do the most American thing possible -- forging opportunity out of crisis,” he said. “There’s no higher duty for a nation than to build better paths” for children, he said.

Biden also rounded out the Office of the White House Counsel on Wednesday, adding four deputies to work with incoming White House Counsel Dana Remus.

Jonathan Cedarbaum will be deputy counsel to the president and legal adviser to the National Security Council. Stuart Delery will be deputy counsel to the president. Previously, he was the third-ranking official at the Justice Department and the most senior openly gay person in the department’s history.

Biden also named Danielle Conley and Jonathan Su to deputy roles.

Cardona has been urging schools to reopen during the pandemic, warning that too many students are falling behind as they rely on virtual learning. Biden has pledged that his administration would work to reopen schools during its first 100 days, if Congress funds protective equipment and other measures needed to make schools safer.

Teachers unions in the state have criticized the push for returning to classrooms, arguing that clearer safety criteria are needed. But a coalition of school-employees unions in Connecticut praised Cardona’s “openness and collaboration” during the pandemic.

Cardona has been active in fighting the “digital divide” that leaves millions of low-income students unable to keep up in virtual classrooms. Connecticut officials declared this month that the state was the first to get every child in the state a laptop and wireless Internet.

Advocates have called for $7 billion in aid for similar programs around the U.S., but that money was left out of the Covid stimulus package passed Monday night.

If Cardona is confirmed, he will face big decisions on how to handle the $1.5 trillion federal student loan portfolio. Progressives and Democratic lawmakers are calling on the Biden administration to use executive authority to cancel student debt across the board.

Biden has endorsed canceling as much as $10,000 in debt for federal student borrowers in response to the pandemic, although he hasn’t said whether he would use executive authority.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer say Biden should go even further by canceling up to $50,000 in debt for borrowers earning less than $125,000. Warren has said debt cancellation is the biggest step Biden could take to stimulate the economy without Congress.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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