AFSA Endorses Miguel Cardona to Head the Department of Education

In a letter to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions, AFSA and the Connecticut Federation of School Administrators (CFSA), our state affiliate, urge his swift confirmation. The letter states:

Taking on the equity challenges of our education system, finding meaningful long-term solutions vs. Band-Aid approaches to our nation’s public schools, and providing educators at every level resources for professional development are just some of the goals that Connecticut Commissioner of Education Miguel Cardona plans to aggressively address as Secretary of Education. For those reasons, the American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA), AFL-CIO, and the Connecticut Federation of School Administrators (CFSA), our state affiliate, stand squarely behind Commissioner Cardona and urge his swift confirmation.

AFSA is the exclusive national labor union representing school principals, assistant principals, central office administrators and supervisors. We advocate for excellence and equity in all of our schools, workplaces and communities.

A seasoned teacher, principal, district administrator and state official, Cardona is a bold and welcome choice by President Biden for U.S. Secretary of Education. We especially know his experience as a principal provides him the greatest understanding of what school leaders need to create, implement and enhance the proper school learning environment for all children to learn and grow academically and personally.

AFSA and CFSA endorse Commissioner Cardona without hesitation because of his career-long commitment to ensuring that America’s most disadvantaged students receive the support they deserve in order to thrive academically and succeed in life. We share his commitment to “closing the achievement gap” for low-income, Black and Brown students and appreciate that his dedication to this issue comes from his own lived experience of growing up in low-income housing and learning English as an ELL student in his public schools. When he is confirmed, we look forward to working closely with him to make real progress on this achievement gap crisis.

We have also been extremely impressed with Commissioner Cardona’s strong and principled leadership of his state’s K12 educational system during this most difficult pandemic emergency period. Like the commissioner, AFSA and CFSA have pushed to reopen schools safely where possible, but have adopted a pragmatic outlook on accomplishing that goal. For example, we value annual assessments for uncovering learning gaps and determining where to deliver additional financial support. We agree with Commissioner Cardona’s suggestion that assessments go forward this spring to ascertain the extent of learning loss, but that school districts do not make use of them for teacher and principal accountability.

AFSA and CFSA are particularly excited about Commissioner Cardona’s nomination because we believe that it is high time that the U.S. Department of Education focus on and invest in school leadership. For too long the federal government has overlooked the contributions and uniquely valuable role in orchestrating student education played by principals and school leaders and we are thrilled at the prospect of someone who recognizes, values and has experience as a school leader assuming the helm of the U.S. Department of Education. Beyond serving as an elementary school principal and being named Connecticut’s Principal of the Year, Commissioner Cardona received his doctorate in education leadership and even taught classes at UConn on related subjects. Additionally, his 2014 Closing the Achievement Gap task force report included an entire section on improving principal preparation at colleges of education. AFSA and CFSA hope that when he becomes Secretary, Commissioner Cardona will work with us to develop an office dedicated to school leadership at the department.

In closing, we must note that during his tenure as a state and district administrator and chief state school officer, we have found Commissioner Cardona to be an excellent communicator, who is willing to meet with, listen to and act fairly on the concerns of unions. We cannot think of a better choice for this critical position and look forward to working with him on issues vital to principals, school leaders, students and American education.