By Hugh T. Ferguson, NASFAA Senior Staff Reporter
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on Tuesday detailed his priorities for the Department of Education (ED) for the upcoming year, urging policymakers to put partisan politics aside and treat education funding like an issue of national security.
The discussion primarily focused on the needs of students, parents, and educators with the department committing to work on programs that will strengthen the education system as a whole.
With a number of budgetary fights brewing in Congress, with Democrats in control of the Senate and Republicans retaking the House, Cardona previewed the argument he will make to congressional leadership for increased funding.
“Let’s not have pandemic amnesia and forget how schools closed because they did not have enough teachers. Let’s learn from that experience and make the case for improved funding,” Cardona said. “Investing in our children is no different than investing in defense. Both protect our tomorrow.”
Cardona highlighted, for example, that funding provided by the American Rescue Plan (ARP) was meant to serve in response to challenges imposed by the pandemic, not as a long-term funding solution.
“It was intended to accelerate reopening and recovery, not to fill decades of underinvestment in education funding and support for students,” he said.
The remarks also focused on challenges facing the teaching profession and how it has become normalized in states to have the salaries of mid-career professionals qualify for welfare programs.
Cardona highlighted ED’s efforts to revamp the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program through waivers and rulemaking to improve the economic outlook for teachers. The department’s recent actions, he said, have resulted in more than $24 billion in loans being forgiven for over 2 million eligible borrowers.
Cardona called on governors, and legislators at the local and federal levels to treat the ARP funding as a “down payment” for sustainable, long-term education funding.
“We need the same spirit of unity and bipartisanship we had in the first two months of the pandemic, when we looked past red and blue, and tapped into our humanity, courage, and American spirit,” Cardona said. “I call on my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in Congress, in local elected leadership, and leading our systems, to join us in putting our shared goals in education at the forefront.”
Publication Date: 1/25/2023
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