President Joe Biden’s choice to serve as education secretary, Connecticut Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona, was confirmed to the post by the Senate on Monday.
The vote came to 64 yays to 33 nays in the chamber on Monday evening.
Cardona, 45, has experience as both a public school educator and an administrator, and has supported Biden’s goal of reopening schools safely as many parents remain concerned about students and the challenges dealt by the pandemic.
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Biden’s plan to reopen schools has been a source of debate, as the president pledged to return most children to schools for in-person learning by the end of first 100 days in office. His administration later clarified that he was referring to grades K through 8, since younger children appear to be at a lower risk of catching the virus.
Initially, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said it may consider a school reopened if there was in-person instruction at least one day per week. But the president later said he hoped to have the majority of K-8 schools open five days per week.
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During an interview with Connecticut Public Radio, Cardona said ultimately schools can only safely be reopened when virus spread is reduced and the virus is contained.
“Schools can open if we’re able to do that successfully,” Cardona said.
At the federal level, Cardona indicated he sees the government’s role as helping to facilitate a transparent process, including issuing clear, consistent guidance and funding to support mitigation strategies.
Democrats are advancing a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, which currently includes $130 billion for schools to reopen.