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What the New U.S. Secretary of Education Means for Your District

Red Rover

Insights | July 20, 2021

As Joe Biden’s administration ushers in a plethora of new policies, it’s important for K-12 industry leaders to be aware of what’s happening in U.S. education policy, from regulation changes to the ushering in of new presidential administrative staff. This is important on both the local and national levels because policy alterations could lead to unexpected federal funding cuts, modifications to public school curriculum, and more.

Who was President Biden’s secretary of education pick?

On March 1, President Joe Biden appointed Miguel Cardona as secretary of education. Cardona, 45, was born in Puerto Rico and moved to Connecticut as a child. Cardona, a member of the Democratic party, replaced former President Donald Trump-appointed philanthropist and Republican political activist Betsey DeVos. Cardona is no stranger to the field of education—he is a former teacher, principal, and district administrator. He also served as Connecticut’s education commissioner from August 2019 to March 2021.

What does the secretary of education do?

As the head of the Department of Education, the secretary of education has a variety of duties, serving as the primary advisor to the president and federal government on programs, policies, and regulations related to the U.S. education system. The secretary is advised by the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity and is 15th in the presidential line of succession.

Created in 1867, the Department of Education was promoted by Congress to a Cabinet-level agency in 1980. A large part of the agency’s Title I program focuses on schools in low-income areas, overseeing the distribution of grants to schools with students from low-income families. This funding can include basic, targeted, and concentration grants as well as education incentives grants.

The secretary of education’s additional duties include: 

  • Overseeing the correct distribution and allocation of the U.S. federal budget for education programs
  • Running and maintaining the Office for Civil Rights, which safeguards students from racial, gender-based harassment, discrimination, and bullying in schools
  • Deciding how federal funding is doled out to U.S. schools, including low-income districts
  • Managing emergency action plans related to schooling and education, such as those related to the COVID-19 pandemic

How will a new U.S. secretary of education impact education?

Districts can expect upcoming changes in policy and funding under any new presidential administration. This can alter how much federal funding they receive for various purposes. Current policy changes can also impact how and when students return to the classroom following the 2020-21 COVID-19 pandemic, from mandated in-school regulations and protocols to standards that are specific to certain areas. 

One thing is for certain: New COVID-19-related funding to help schools, colleges, and universities is on its way. In March, Biden signed the American Rescue Plan for educational institutions across the country, putting $130 billion of federal funding toward ensuring “K-12 educators, students, and parents, especially those most impacted by this pandemic, have what they need to resume and sustain in-person learning in classrooms as quickly and safely as possible,” Cardona said.

Post-high school education will also be prioritized; $40 billion of critical resources will also “help colleges operate safely and provide assistance to help students complete their studies,” he said. The Department of Education believes that “it will take years to address the devastating impacts of COVID-19—including the ways that the pandemic exacerbated the existing inequities in our education system.”

What do you need to know? 

Any new presidential administration will be accompanied by educational policy changes, which could impact school districts in a multitude of different ways. Stay in the know by subscribing to Red Rover’s blog!

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