The Senate on Monday confirmed Miguel Cardona to lead the U.S. Department of Education in a 64-33 vote.
Cardona, a longtime educator from Connecticut, will be tasked with helping schools reopen during the pandemic and leading the $68 billion agency.
“There is no one better suited for this job in this moment than Miguel Cardona,” Sen. Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, said on the Senate floor. “He’s whip smart, he’s a passionate advocate for kids and for teachers and for parents.”
Cardona currently serves as the commissioner of education for Connecticut. Before that, he worked as a fourth-grade elementary school teacher and later principal in his hometown of Meriden, Conn.
The White House has not yet scheduled his swearing-in ceremony.
During his confirmation hearing, Cardona said that teachers should be considered as front-line workers for the vaccine as the Biden administration works to reopen K-8 schools within its first 100 days. Similarly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in early February released guidance to provide educators with a science-based plan for reopening K-12 schools.
Cardona also raised concerns about low rates of enrollment for higher education at universities and community colleges. He said that the department will also have to address many long-standing disparities in education that the pandemic has exacerbated.
The CEO of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, Ronn Nozoe, said in a statement that Cardona’s experience as a public school teacher would help him lead the Department of Education.
“As our members continue to work tirelessly to sustain student learning and well-being, Secretary Cardona’s leadership will bolster our schools’ efforts to safely reopen, address the needs of all of our students, and support our educators,” Nozoe said.
Some of the senators who voted against his nomination had expressed dismay over Cardona’s comments on how he would handle the civil rights of transgender students. During his confirmation hearing, Sen. Roger Marshall, Republican of Kansas, asked Cardona if he would prevent transgender girls from competing on girls sports teams.
Cardona said that discrimination based on gender is illegal, which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year.
He was voted out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee by a vote of 17-5.