A month ago, the names popping up in the conversation about President Biden’s pick for Secretary of Education were Alma Adams, Randi Weingarten, Congresswoman Lily Garcia, and two leaders of educators’ unions. Now in the middle of December 2020, the talk seems to be circling instead around Leslie Fenwick, dean emeritus of the Howard University School of Education; and Miguel Cardona, the top education official in Connecticut.
No decisions have been made yet, nothing official, though the announcement is expected to come before Christmas. Despite the rumors, the two names above would both be surprising choices.
Fenwick, while currently a professor and a teacher of teachers, wouldn’t keep Biden’s promise to choose a public-school educator. Her experience as a classroom teacher is decades behind her, and she has spent most of those decades as an outspoken critic to any manner of educational reform, including those that occurred under President Barack Obama. With education reform a major spoke of Biden’s party platform, appointing her as Secretary of Education would seem to be working at cross purposes to his intentions.
But they do agree on several major issues. Fenwick has been an opponent to Teach for America, a program which put new teachers, without unions, into high-need schools, the very schools that need experienced teachers the most. She’s also been outspoken against for-profit charter schools and taxpayer-funded private school vouchers that take public money away from public schools.
Cardona, who taught and directed grade schools until his appointment in 2019 as Connecticut’s education commissioner, has less history of controversy, but he was outspoken about the need to return children to in-class education regardless of disease risk. His stance was not without logic: he wasn’t denying the risk, but his position was that the educational damage being done to the majority was worth the risk to the lives of teachers, students, and their families.
So, questions abound with both Fenwick and Cardona. Or maybe President Biden will nominate a completely different person. Hopefully, those questions will be answered in the coming weeks.
Photo: Miguel Cardona, one of the new people who has emerged as a possible Biden Secretary of Education, speaks at a press conference. Credit: vasilis asvestas / Shutterstock.com