* Former school teacher and administrator in Connecticut
* Blames racism for the “academic achievement gap” between black and white students
* Former Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Education
* Supports the tenets of Critical Race Theory
* Views America as a racist nation
* Promotes the acceptance of transgenderism in public schools
* Advocates free community college
* Favors the forgiveness of student loans
* Was named U.S. Secretary of Education by President Biden
Miguel Cardona was born on July 11, 1975 in Meriden, Connecticut. A son of Puerto Rican immigrants, he spoke mostly Spanish during his early life and struggled with the English language. In spite of this, Cardona managed to graduate in 1997 with a B.A. in Education from Central Connecticut State University. He also received two degrees from the University of Connecticut: a Master of Education in 2001, and a Doctor of Education in 2012. Cardona’s doctoral dissertation was about the “achievement disparities” between white students on the one hand, and nonwhites for whom English was not their primary language.
From 1998-2003, Cardona taught fourth grade at Israel Putnam Elementary School in Meriden. In 2001, he responded to a nearby library’s decision to host a speaking engagement by an alleged white supremacist by having his students discuss and write about racism. “Although these students may be at a very tender age, their maturity and ability to deal with issues such as these are qualities that Meriden should be proud of,” Cardona wrote at the time in his hometown’s newspaper, the Record-Journal. In 2003 Cardona became the principal of Hanover Elementary School in Meriden, where, over the course of his decade-long tenure there, he implemented a bilingual educational program.
In 2011, Cardona joined a state task force committee that made policy recommendations intended to close the “academic achievement gap between racial and socioeconomic groups in Connecticut.” Upon its inception in January 2011, the task force affirmed its belief that “it is morally and economically imperative that Connecticut eliminate the academic achievement gap between racial and ethnic minority and white students, and between poor and middle-income students, by the end of the current decade.” In a 2014 report, the committee recommended remedies that included increased access to public housing, social services, and anti-hunger programs.
In 2013, Cardona began working as a Performance and Evaluation Specialist for Meriden Public Schools. In 2015 he was promoted to Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning, a role in which he pursued an array of ambitious measures designed to support minority students. These measures included: (a) flying to Puerto Rico to attract bilingual teachers; (b) hiring school climate specialists to interact with students in their native languages; and (c) ensuring that those same specialists were of the same racial and/or ethnic background as the students whom they served.
In August 2019, Democratic Governor Ned Lamont selected Cardona to become Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Education. In this position, Cardona continued to place a heavy emphasis on lessening the interracial disparities in educational achievement. He claimed, among other things, that ethnic minority students were handicapped academically because instruction in English-as-a-second-language was not offered in their schools. Under Cardona’s direction, Connecticut implemented the nation’s first state-mandated ethnic-studies course. As a result, all Connecticut high schools were required to offer a year-long elective class designed to “provid[e] students with a better understanding of the African-American, Black, Puerto Rican, and Latino contributions to United States history, society, economy, and culture.” Cardona applauded the new requirement in December 2020:
“Identities matter, especially when 27 percent of our students identify as Hispanic or Latino and 13 percent identify as Black or African-American. This curriculum acknowledges that by connecting the story of people of color in the U.S. to the larger story of American history. The fact is that more inclusive, culturally relevant content in classrooms leads to greater student engagement and better outcomes for all.”
The learning objectives of Connecticut’s new ethnic-studies courses were to help students to:
The new state curriculum implemented under Cardona would expose high-school students to the tenets of Critical Race Tfheory (CRT), as a Manhattan Institute analysis explained in February 2021: “[T]hese programs can also indoctrinate children into the political dogma of Critical Race Theory, which holds that all whites are oppressors, that America is an inherently racist country and that for nonwhite people to be ‘liberated’ or for white people to be ‘anti-racist,’ we must interpret human affairs through the lens of identity politics and pursue left-wing causes.”
In constructing the new curriculum, Cardona collaborated with a far-left organization called Hearing Youth Voices. A devout supporter of CRT, Hearing Youth Voices: (a) contends that “capitalism is at the root of White Supremacy, Patriarchy, Police Brutality, the School-to-Prison Pipeline and so much more”; (b) pledges “solidarity” with the respective “struggles” of “Palestine” and the Black Lives Matter movement to resist the oppression of “police states” like Israel and white America; (c) advocates forcing “cops out of schools”; and (d) exhorts Americans to “imagine a world without borders, capitalism, prison, [and] police.”
In December 2020, President-elect Joe Biden nominated Cardona for the post of Secretary of Education. Biden touted Cardona as someone who would “strive to eliminate long-standing inequities and close racial and socioeconomic opportunity gaps — and expand access to community colleges, training, and public four-year colleges and universities to improve student success and grow a stronger, more prosperous, and more inclusive middle class.” By nominating Cardona, who was not a part of organizational leadership with either the National Education Association or the American Federation of Teachers,” Biden sidestepped the possibility that his selection might stoke a sense of rivalry between the nation’s two largest teachers’ unions, both of which supported his nomination.
As Education Secretary, Cardona would be tasked with carrying out the Biden-Kamala Harris plan of free community colleges and free tuition at four-year public institutions for families with an annual income of less than $125,000 per year.
During his Senate confirmation hearings in early 2021, Cardona expressed his firm support for the acceptance of transgenderism in public schools: “It’s nonnegotiable to make sure that our learning environments are places that are free of discrimination and harassment for all learners, including our LGBTQ students,” he declared. Cardona also indicated his support for legal protections that would enable transgender students to participate on sports teams in accordance with their own “preferred gender identity.”
Cardona was eventually confirmed as Education Secretary by the U.S. Senate on March 1, 2021, by a vote of 64-33.
In April 2021, Cardona’s Department of Education announced that it was seeking input on how to better to incorporate “racially, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse perspectives” into education in civics and American history. The announcement specifically cited the 1619 Project and the writings of Ibram X. Kendi as examples of items worthy of becoming educational “priorities” in those subjects. The announcement also cited the “growing acknowledgement of the importance of including, in the teaching and learning of our country’s history, both the consequences of slavery, and the significant contributions of Black Americans to our society.” To promote such instruction, the Department of Education set aside some $5.3 million in grant funding.
In May 2021, Cardona eliminated a Trump-era rule that would have barred illegal-alien students from receiving any of the $36 billion in emergency funding for struggling students that was part of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package. “The pandemic didn’t discriminate on students,” Cardona said in a press call on May 10. “We know that the final rule will include all students, and we want to make sure that all students have an opportunity to have access to funds to help get them back on track.”
In June 2021, the Department of Education announced a series of actions it would undertake to advance “equity” in education. One such action would be the staging of a virtual Equity Summit Series, which would “explore how schools and communities can reimagine our school systems so that every student has a voice in their school and classroom, particularly students from underserved communities, including communities of color, students with disabilities, and multilingual learners.”
The Department also released a June 2021 report that presented findings on the “impacts of the [coronavirus] pandemic on both K-12 and postsecondary education students,” including: (a) how COVID-19 has deepened pre-pandemic disparities in access and opportunities facing students of color, multilingual learners, students with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ students, with significant impacts on their learning”; (b) “how the pandemic has caused heightened risk of harassment, discrimination, and other harms for Asian American and Pacific Islander students,”; and (c) how “the pandemic may have put students at heightened risk of sexual harassment, abuse and violence — particularly girls, women, and students who are transgender, non-binary, or gender non-conforming.” In an effort to combat such disparate effects, the Biden administration pledged to spend billions of dollars more in the upcoming 2022 fiscal year budget.
On June 16, 2021, the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights announced that it would enforce Title IX — one of the preeminent anti-discrimination statues — with additional protections for “sexual orientation and gender identity.” “Today, the Department makes clear that all students—including LGBTQ+ students—deserve the opportunity to learn and thrive in schools that are free from discrimination,” Cardona stated.
In September 2021, Cardona expressed his concern that $45.5 billion in expenditures designed to provide free community college might ultimately be excluded from the Biden administration’s multi-trillion-dollar “Build Back Better” agenda. Cardona claimed that the federal government’s provision of free community college was essential to the cause of “leveling the playing field for so many students” and forg[ing] a path to liberty and justice for all.”
In October 2021, Cardona appointed National School Boards Association (NSBA) President Viola Garcia to serve on the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) overseeing the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which is widely recognized as “the largest continuing and nationally representative assessment of what our nation’s students know and can do in subjects such as mathematics, reading, science, and writing.” Just several weeks before, Garcia had signed an NSBA letter that likened dissenting parents who objected to school mask mandates (to combat COVID-19) and the teaching of Critical Race Theory, to “domestic terrorists.”
In January 2022, reports emerged indicating that according to a recently uncovered internal NSBA email exchange from October 6, 2021, Cardona himself had solicited the publication of the NSBA letter comparing schoolchildren’s parents to domestic terrorists. Just two days prior to that email correspondence, Attorney General Merrick Garland had announced that the FBI would take pains to thwart a “disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff.”
Amid the passage of Florida’s Parent Rights in Education legislation in March 2022, Cardona threatened the state with possible punitive legal action. The legislation in question — frequently mislabeled by leftists as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill — simply prevented teachers in grades K-3 from engaging in discussions about sexual orientation or gender identity with their students. The legislation also declared that schools “may not discourage or prohibit parental notification of and involvement in critical decisions affecting a student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being.” When informed about what the bill actually would do, a majority of voters — including Democrats — supported it. Cardona, however, vowed to fight its implementation:
“Parents across the country are looking to national, state, and district leaders to support our nation’s students, help them recover from the pandemic, and provide them the academic and mental health [support] they need. Instead, leaders in Florida are prioritizing hateful bills that hurt some of the students most in need. The Department of Education has made clear that all schools receiving federal funding must follow federal civil rights law, including Title IX’s protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. We stand with our LGBTQ+ students in Florida and across the country, and urge Florida leaders to make sure all their students are protected and supported.”
In late March 2022, Cardona alleged that conservatives had maliciously “fabricated” the notion that the tenets of Critical Race Theory were being taught to schoolchildren. “It’s my opinion that these are generated to be the boogeymen to create division in our schools,” he explained. “So, to me, those are fabricated to try to detract from the conversation about how our schools are open, how we have more money to support our students. I want the perspectives of people that don’t agree with me. That’s what makes a better school and that’s what makes a better community, when all people feel heard. But, at the end of the day, we’re going to fight for what’s right for our students, and that includes, in this case, making sure that they’re learning about the history of our country and that they see people that look like them in the materials that they’re reading.”
Cardona met with members of the National Association of Secondary Public School Principals (NASSP) in April 2022 — approximately seven months after the organization had called upon Cardona and the Biden administration to “ban hostile parents and individuals from school grounds who threaten our safety.”
In late June 2022, the Biden administration, in a proposed settlement of a Trump-era lawsuit, agreed to cancel roughly $6 billion in student loans for almost 200,000 former students who had attended any of more than 150 colleges and claimed that they had been defrauded by their schools. The Associated Press provided the following background:
“The class-action suit was initially filed by seven former students who argued that President Donald Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, had intentionally stalled the borrower defense process while she rewrote its rules. When the suit was filed, no final decision had been made on any claims for more than a year.
“When the department under DeVos started deciding claims months later, it issued tens of thousands of denials, often without any explanation. […] Tens of thousands of borrowers were still in limbo when the Biden administration took over and started negotiating a settlement in 2021, according to court documents. The latest federal data shows there are more than 100,000 pending claims for borrower defense.
“Under the proposed settlement, anyone who attended an eligible school and applied for cancellation as of [June 22, 2022] would get their federal student loans and interest fully forgiven. They would also get refunds for past payments made on those loans.
“An additional 68,000 plaintiffs who did not attend eligible schools will get a ‘streamlined review’ of their claims. […] All borrowers who were caught up in DeVos’ flurry of denials will have their rejections revoked and their claims will be treated as if they have been pending since the date they were originally filed.”
Cardona stated that the cancellation of such debt would settle the issue “in a manner that is fair and equitable for all parties.”
In August 2022, Cardona defended the Biden administration’s plan to “forgive” $10,000 of federal student loan debt for borrowers who were earning less than $125,000 per year, and up to $20,000 of debt for former Pell Grant recipients. Regarding that decision, Bloomberg Television host and reporter David Westin asked Cardona: “[D]o you have some sympathy for people who say, ‘I paid back told my loans and I didn’t get this kind of break. It’s not quite fair’?” Cardona replied:
“Look, we had a pandemic and we’re helping people who were most impacted by the pandemic. So, as someone that — I currently do not have loans and I paid for my degrees, I have four or five, I paid for them. And I was fortunate to be in a position where I could pay for them. If something happened where my neighbor needs help to get back on their feet, me feeling that they shouldn’t get help, that’s un-American. We’re going to help people when they’re down, get them back up, and provide a sustainable path of continued growth for them. That’s what we’re doing for the American people right now. And while some people chose not to go to college or maybe said they couldn’t afford to go to college so they’re not going, everybody knows somebody who’s struggling with debt. So, it might be their family member that’s going to get helped here. It’s the right thing to do after a pandemic, just like it was the right thing to do to help small businesses. And that’s what this President is doing and I’m proud to be a part of it and I’m proud that we’re going to be able to provide 43 million Americans some relief so they can move on with their life and move on with their education.”
Despite concerns raised over the constitutionality of Biden’s student loan plan — including concerns that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had raised in July 2021 when she stated that the president “does not have [the] power” to “forgive” student loans — Cardona argued that the HEROES Act of 2020 gave him “authority to provide a waiver to ensure Americans are not worse off after an emergency, a national emergency, which the [COVID19] pandemic was.”