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Inauguration Day, and More on the Next US Education Secretary.

This weekly segment by Democrats for Education Reform CT looks at the top education stories Democrats are watching, providing bite-sized analysis and links to recent articles. On the roster this week: Inauguration Day, and More on the Next US Education Secretary.

Inauguration Day: A New Chapter

It's Inauguration Day! We made it. The ceremonies kick off at 11am, and Vice President elect-Kamala Harris—the first woman, first Black American, and first South Asian American to be VP—will be sworn in before noon by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina Supreme Court Justice. At noon, President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts. We at DFER CT are optimistic about what a Biden-Harris administration will mean for students and families. One of President Biden’s top priorities for the first 100 days is to reopen the majority of schools in the country, and his transition team appears to understand that’s preconditioned upon a national strategy to address COVID-19. There is an expected executive order coming on Day 2 related to the reopening of schools, likely tied to new federal guidelines with clear public health standards. Relatedly, President Biden will ask Congress to act on a $1.9 trillion relief package, including $170 billion directed towards schools. And he’ll also extend the pause on student loan payments via executive order.

Legacy and Lessons from Cardona

Commissioner Miguel Cardona’s expected appointment as Education Secretary for the Biden administration will leave a vacancy in Connecticut. Looking ahead, Amy penned an opinion for the Connecticut Post last week, outlining what we can learn from Cardona's tenure and how the state can honor his legacy of leading with equity. In the interest of prioritizing students, he took sometimes unpopular positions as Commissioner—notably on keeping schools open during the pandemic and on re-establishing accountability through a commitment to statewide assessments in 2021.

Yesterday, the CT Mirror's Jacqueline Rabe Thomas and Adria Watson also published a piece that looks at Commissioner Cardona’s background in Meriden, Connecticut. The article outlines his efforts to combat the “soft bigotry of low expectations” through a variety of strategies, including:

  • Embracing the high bar set by Common Core and accompanying progress measurements;

  • Providing students with extra learning time.

  • Replacing suspensions with emotional support for students;

  • Broadening access to AP courses;

  • Setting up programs that encourage more students to consider college;

  • Addressing teacher evaluation and development; and

  • Engaging parents.

And there’s an argument to be made that policies like these have started to move the needle: Looking at student growth, Meriden's low-income students are outpacing state averages. Hopefully, Cardona will bring these student-centered, equity-oriented efforts to scale at the US Department of Education.

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