During his 2020 campaign, President-elect Joe Biden was asked about his priorities for Secretary of Education. “We need an education secretary who understands that education isn’t just what we are,” was his answer. “It’s who we are.”

That answer resonated with the many, many Americans who wanted that position to be filled by an educator. Someone who was brought up, as it were, in the trenches.

Early on December 23, 2020, Biden announced that he’d made a “real easy” choice on the matter: he has selected Connecticut education official Miguel Cardona as the next head of the U.S. Department of Education.

Cardona was one of the two Secretary of Education candidates whose names only emerged within the last couple of weeks.

The child of Puerto Rican parents, Cardona is a native son of Connecticut. He taught fourth grade in the same town where he was born, until he became the state’s youngest principal in 2003. He rose from there to assistant superintendent, became a professor at the University of Connecticut, and last year was appointed Commissioner of Education by Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont. And all along, he has sought to improve the field of education, and the way it connects with its most-neglected students.

While Cardona’s political career has not been long, his history as a student, a teacher, and an administrator of education have all been geared around the pressure politics places on education. When he achieved a Doctor of Education degree in 2011, his dissertation was about the gaps between students who do and don’t speak English at home, and the systemic changes needed to close those.

Cardona’s name only entered the conversation about appointment this December, but the decision makes sense. Choosing either of the former two front-runners, Lily Garcia or Randi Weingarten, would have been flirting with the stress of rivalry between the two major educator unions. Cardona, who isn’t currently a part of any union, sidesteps that possibility while also pleasing those who want a teacher, not a politician.

Photo by vasilis asvestas / Shutterstock.com