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Who is Conn. education commissioner Miguel Cardona, Biden’s choice for education secretary?

A former public school teacher, Cardona has been Connecticut education commissioner since 2019

Connecticut Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona speaks with Berlin High School students while on a tour of the school in January.Devin Leith-Yessian/Associated Press

Connecticut Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona, a former elementary school teacher and principal, has been tapped by President-elect Joe Biden to serve as the next education secretary, offering what will likely be a stark contrast from current Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Cardona has been a lifelong resident of Meriden, Conn., and he attended public schools as a child, according to his biography on the state government’s website. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Connecticut State University, and he completed multiple programs at the University of Connecticut, including a master’s degree in bilingual/bicultural education and a doctorate in education.

Cardona worked first as an elementary school teacher, spent 10 years as a school principal, and became assistant superintendent for teaching and learning in Meriden in 2013. He was appointed Connecticut’s education commissioner in August 2019.


Here’s what else we know about Cardona:

  • As a child, Cardona lived in a housing project in Meriden, Conn. His parents had moved as children from Puerto Rico, and Cardona spoke only Spanish until he began school, according to the CT Mirror.
  • As a former public school student, teacher, and administrator, Cardona is likely to bring a different perspective to the top education seat than DeVos, his predecessor, who has not attended or worked in public schools.
  • When Cardona was 28, he became Connecticut’s youngest principal.
  • Cardona was Connecticut’s first Latino education commissioner.
  • Throughout the pandemic, Cardona has pushed for Connecticut schools to stay open, saying that there is little evidence of coronavirus transmission happening within school buildings, according to the Hartford Courant. The newspaper reported that the state’s largest teachers unions have pushed back against his calls for in-person learning — a storyline that has played out similarly in other states around the country, including Massachusetts.
  • Despite their conflicts over school reopening amid the pandemic, a coalition of teacher and other education unions in Connecticut issued a statement in support of Cardona’s nomination as education secretary, saying he “would be a positive force for public education — light years ahead of the dismal Betsy DeVos track record.”
  • Cardona and Governor Ned Lamont made it a priority this year to close the digital divide among K-12 students in the state, and announced earlier this month that Connecticut had become the first state to provide learning devices for any student who needed one. Cardona said in a statement at the time: “While today’s milestone is one to be celebrated, we need to continue leading with a laser-like focus on accelerating learning and prioritizing equitable access to high-quality content, especially for our most vulnerable students.”
  • Cardona has held a variety of other leadership positions, including cochair of the Connecticut Legislative Achievement Gap Task Force and cochair of the Connecticut Birth to Grade Three Leaders Council, according to his state biography. He also taught for four years as an adjunct professor in the University of Connecticut’s Department of Educational Leadership.
  • Cardona has a wife, Marissa, and two children.

Material from the Associated Press and The New York Times was used in this report.