Your Education Road Map

Politics K-12®

ESSA. Congress. State chiefs. School spending. Elections. Education Week reporters keep watch on education policy and politics in the nation’s capital and in the states. Read more from this blog.


Miguel Cardona Tells Teachers ‘I Know You’re Tired’ in Speech Outlining Major K-12 Goals

By Andrew Ujifusa — January 27, 2022 4 min read
Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona speaks during a visit with first lady Jill Biden to Bergen Community College in Paramus, N.J., Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona trumpeted his support for teachers Thursday, while also pushing for more resources and backing for educators and children.

In a speech laying out his vision for education nearly a year after he took office, Cardona named specific goals and challenges for district leaders involving school counselors, reading, and more. Echoing long-standing Biden administration positions, he called for increases in federal funding for Title I programs to support economically disadvantaged students and for special education.

“It’s our moment to finally make education the great equalizer, the force that can help every student thrive” regardless of their backgrounds, Cardona said. He added later that, “our country’s strength is at stake.”

At the same time, he expressed sympathy for educators in the field. Cardona said he could personally relate to their struggles, given the challenges he faced while trying to reopen schools as Connecticut’s education commissioner.

“I know you’re tired. I know you’re stretched,” said Cardona, who called their efforts “heroic” in remarks delivered at the Education Department headquarters in Washington. “While we didn’t sign up to serve during a pandemic, we did sign up to serve students.”

Some teachers have said recently they’re disappointed Cardona does not seem to be consistently championing their interests amid the ongoing push for schools to hold in-person classes.

Cardona reiterated the importance of keeping schools open for in-person learning, which has become the key talking point for President Joe Biden and his administration in recent months. Yet he also said that merely doing so was insufficient.

“We’re either closing educational opportunity gaps, or we’re making them worse” based on the decisions schools make, he said.

While Cardona has repeatedly urged educators and policymakers to alter their expectations and practices in response to COVID-19, he laid out specific goals on Thursday for schools in light of the relief funding they’ve received through federal packages like the American Rescue Plan. Among these:

  • Every student who’s fallen behind during the pandemic should have access to a well-trained tutor for 30 minutes a day, three times a week.
  • Every high school should have at least one career counselor to support students’ ambitions beyond K-12.
  • Every high school student should participate in at least one activity outside of classes, such as athletics or arts programs.

At the federal level, Cardona’s call for schools to get more funding has been anticipated by lawmakers.

Democrats in Congress have introduced funding legislation for the next fiscal year that would provide major increases for programs like Title I for disadvantaged students. However, those bills have stalled, and it remains to be seen whether and when lawmakers enact such increases for fiscal 2022.

Schools have received close to $200 billion in dedicated COVID aid across three federal relief packages dating back to early 2020. And even amid the surge in the omicron variant, the vast majority of school districts have kept their doors open.

Yet ongoing disruptions caused by COVID-19, as well as fatigue and frustrations among parents, school staff, and others, continue to create major challenges for the nation’s schools.

Cardona faces complex tests separate from COVID

Major policy and political tests await Cardona and the Education Department that aren’t directly related to the pandemic.

Within the next several months, the department is due to begin public proceedings as part of its push to overhaul Title IX regulations for K-12 schools and higher education. The White House has indicated that it will toss out the Title IX rule adopted by former education secretary Betsy DeVos in 2020. Last year, the department signaled that it expects school administrators to act aggressively in response to possible incidents of sexual misconduct and that the 2020 rule represented minimum expectations for schools’ approach to the issue.

The new Title IX rule will also likely address controversial issues like transgender students’ rights. The Biden administration has stated it interprets Title IX to cover students’ sexual orientation and gender identity. However, critics of that interpretation, including GOP lawmakers, say it will disrupt school activities such as student athletics. Cardona and congressional Republicans have already publicly sparred about this issue.

The Education Department could also revisit school discipline guidance adopted by the Obama administration but revoked by the Trump White House.

This guidance stated that schools disciplining students of color disproportionately might be in violation of federal civil rights laws. As a 2020 presidential candidate, Biden indicated he would revive this nonbinding directive. But amid ongoing concern about student misbehavior this year and how schools should address race in curriculum and beyond, restarting a debate about that guidance will likely only put a bigger political spotlight on Cardona.

In his speech, the education secretary briefly addressed this issue by declaring that given all the disruption the pandemic has caused students, relying on unfair and “exclusionary” disciplinary policies that push children further away from schools is the wrong approach.


Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum Making Technology Work Better in Schools
Join experts for a look at the steps schools are taking (or should take) to improve the use of technology in schools.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Budget & Finance Webinar
The ABCs of ESSER: How to Make the Most of Relief Funds Before They Expire
Join a diverse group of K-12 experts to learn how to leverage federal funds before they expire and improve student learning environments.
Content provided by Johnson Controls
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Modernizing Principal Support: The Road to More Connected and Effective Leaders
When principals are better equipped to lead, support, and maintain high levels of teaching and learning, outcomes for students are improved.
Content provided by BetterLesson

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal What the Research Says Education Research Has Changed Under COVID. Here's How the Feds Can Catch Up
Adam Gamoran, chairman of a National Academies panel on the future of education research, talks about the shift that's needed.
5 min read
Graphic shows iconic data images all connected.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Federal What the CDC's Relaxed Mask Recommendations Mean for Schools
Federal officials adopted new metrics that will give districts the green light to end mask mandates in a broad swath of the country.
6 min read
Kindergarten students sit in their classroom on the first day of in-person learning at Maurice Sendak Elementary School in Los Angeles on April  2021.
Kindergarten students sit in their classroom on the first day of in-person learning at Maurice Sendak Elementary School in Los Angeles on April 2021.
Jae C. Hong/AP
Federal CDC Plans Update to Indoor Mask Guidance. How Could That Apply to Schools?
The CDC will soon update its general masking guidance, but has yet to say how any changes will affect recommendations for schools.
3 min read
Emily Jeter helps her son Eli, a kindergarten student, get his mask on before heading into his Tulsa, Okla., elementary school in August 2021.
Emily Jeter helps her son Eli, a kindergarten student, get his mask on before heading into his Tulsa, Okla., elementary school in August 2021.
Mike Simons/Tulsa World via AP
Federal Opinion What Stephen Breyer’s Resignation Means for Education
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer is stepping down. Here’s what that means for education.
2 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty