Why Secretary Cardona is ‘more optimistic than usual’

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona came to the Monitor Breakfast on Sept. 13 bearing “gifts,” as he put it: a stack of thick, glossy booklets entitled “Raise the Bar,” touting his department’s goals. He was fresh off a back-to-school bus tour in the American heartland and, he says, feeling “more optimistic than usual.”

Dr. Cardona spoke of how gratifying it was to put faces to policies, “whether that’s early childhood programming in Illinois or after-school programming in Minnesota. It’s good to see students engaged.”

Still, he hastened to add, these are challenging times for education, be it K-12 schools’ continuing efforts to recover from pandemic “learning loss,” teacher shortages, or the Department of Education’s new plan for student debt relief after the Supreme Court struck down the previous program. In June, the high court also ended affirmative action – race-conscious admissions – at colleges and universities, a topic that’s clearly near to Dr. Cardona’s heart. He was born in Meriden, Connecticut, to Puerto Rican parents, and English is his second language. He was the first in his family to attend college.