OPINION: Education secretary nominee will improve Florida’s public schools
President-elect Joe Biden announced his nomination for secretary of education Dec. 22, less than a month before former U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced her resignation Jan. 8. The nominee, Miguel Cardona, shows promise in improving the Florida public education system when compared to DeVos.
DeVos has been ridiculed by educators due to her lack of experience in education and her wild claims that occurred throughout her employment, like her suggestion during her confirmation hearing in 2017 that guns are needed in schools to protect against grizzly bears.
“She is out of her league when it comes to knowing and doing what works for public school students,” said Lily Eskelsen García, a teacher and the former president of the National Education Association, in 2017.
DeVos has expressed support of allowing educators to carry firearms in schools. In the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in early 2018, the secretary planned to provide Florida public school faculty with guns, which was released in a 2018 White House statement. This was strongly opposed by García, who said investing in guns would take away from improving educational opportunities that public schools already lack, such as investments in the arts.
In contrast to DeVos, Cardona will be the Florida public school system’s savior. As the previous head of the Connecticut public school system and a former educator, according to NPR, he has more experience in education than DeVos.
The most important improvement that Cardona will bring is security in the funding of public schools. DeVos expressed her interest in reallocating funding from public to private schools, proposing a $8.5 billion cut in 2019. This proposal was accepted with a $5.6 billion cut, eliminating 8% of the national public school budget in 2020. The Washington Post reported that this money was set to be given to private schools in order to encourage higher enrollment in tuition-based education.
Not only does Cardona hope to prevent the defunding of public schools, but he also prides himself on his work to provide education for students who don’t typically have access to resources, like minority or disabled students.
While acting as the Connecticut commissioner of education, Cardona pushed for Connecticut to become the first state to require cultural diversity courses for high school students, according to a 2020 statement by Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont. Cardona has also been endorsed by the National Center for Learning Disabilities.
Cardona will hold schools responsible for misuse of funds as he did in February 2020 when charter schools in his home state were violating state law, according to the New Haven Independent.
His past achievements will benefit Florida, since the state’s education system has been critiqued in the past for its lack of initiative in cultural education and disability access, having been ranked 29th by U.S. Today in its 2018 analysis of best public schools by state.
DeVos has encouraged educators to endorse the privatization of public schools, which would further the gap of education access between economic classes. She has been a plague to the American public school system, and Cardona is bound to be an improvement.
DeVos has profited off of student loan debt, which has increased significantly since her confirmation in 2017, by having a financial stake in a company that collected student loans, according to The Washington Post. She also invested in for-profit universities, making it obvious that she has profited off of the privatization of public schools and the increase in enrollment at private schools and for-profit universities.
Florida is in need of a secretary of education who will do what is best for students and not what is best for their financial interests in tuition-based education, as DeVos did the past four years. Cardona’s priorities as an educator and leader qualify him to better public schools across the nation.