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During confirmation hearing, Senator Murray stresses urgent need to confirm Dr. Cardona in order to meet President Biden’s goal of getting the majority of K-8 students safely back in the classroom for in-person instruction within the first 100 of his Administration

Senator Murray highlights Dr. Cardona’s public education experience, reiterates he’s the right nominee to address learning loss due to COVID and long-standing inequities in our education system

Senator Murray: “Any Senator who has heard from a parent who wants to get their child back to the classroom safely—and I am sure everyone has—should vote to advance and confirm Dr. Cardona, without hesitation.” 

***WATCH SENATOR MURRAY’S FULL REMARKS HERE***

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, during a hearing, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), incoming Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, pushed to quickly confirm Secretary of Education nominee Dr. Miguel Cardona to help get students safely back to the classroom for in-person instruction, address learning loss due to COVID, and tackle longstanding inequities to ensure every student has access to a high quality education—from pre-K children through adult learners. In her opening remarks, Senator Murray stressed that with students and schools across the country in crisis, there is no time to waste in confirming an experienced leader like Dr. Cardona. Senator Murray also stressed the need for Congress to pass the funding President Biden called for in his American Rescue Plan to ensure schools can respond to and recover from this crisis.

“We have a lot of work to do, we have an excellent candidate to help us get it done, and we have no time to waste,” said Senator Murray. “Any Senator who has heard from a parent who wants to get their child back to the classroom safely—and I am sure everyone has—should vote to advance and confirm Dr. Cardona, without hesitation. And I’m hopeful when the time comes they will do just that.”

In her remarks, Senator Murray discussed that across the country, students, educators and families need Dr. Cardona to get us back on track, after the pandemic has set back students’ learning and compounded long-standing inequities in our education system.

  • Reports estimate white students have lost one to three months of learning—while students of color have lost three to five.
  • One in four students lack access to the internet at home, and families of color are significantly more likely to experience limited internet and device inaccessibility.
  • Students have lost access to critical resources like mental health services, school meals, school counselors, extracurricular activities, and more.

In her questions to Dr. Cardona, Senator Murray asked about what Dr. Cardona plans to do to help higher education where enrollment is declining sharply as students have also been thrown into turmoil, with many struggling to pay for tuition, rent, and food. And she noted how the student debt crisis worsening—particularly for students of color, who are more likely to borrow, and borrower higher amounts, than their white peers.

“The pain of this pandemic isn’t felt equally, instead it is deepening systemic inequities that were already incredibly damaging for students of color, students from families with low incomes, students with disabilities, women, English learners, students experiencing homelessness, and so many others,” continued Senator Murray.   

In her remarks, Senator Murray also stressed that getting “back to normal” isn’t enough and highlighted the work that needs to be done to address longstanding inequities within our education system, like inequitable school funding, racial and socioeconomic school segregation, the use of seclusion and restraint, the school to prison pipeline, lack of access to early learning and child care, the student debt crisis, college accessibility and affordability, campus safety, and more.  Senator Murray also emphasized the moral imperative to measure students’ needs so policymakers and schools have the data necessary to address those needs.

Senator Murray commended Dr. Cardona’s experience, background and priorities, and reiterated her confidence that he is the right choice to help address these challenges and get the Department of Education back on track.

“Dr. Cardona is a proven, collaborative leader, a champion for public schools, and an excellent choice to lead the Department of Education through the challenges ahead,” said Senator Murray.

Senator Murray also stressed the urgent need to pass President Biden’s COVID relief proposal to provide critical education funding to ensure schools get through this crisis and serve students by implementing public health protocols, improving ventilation, providing PPE, closing the digital divide, providing extended learning time and tutoring, addressing learning loss, and saving education jobs. Additionally, this much-needed funding would ensure higher education students receive emergency financial aid and can afford housing, food, child care, and access to broadband.

Senator Murray’s full remarks are below.

“This is the first meeting of the HELP Committee in the new Congress. I’m immensely honored today to take the helm of a committee I believe represents the heart and soul of this country. From health care, to education, to supporting workers and retirees, to childcare, to ensuring everyone can live with dignity and respect. The issues we tackle are the issues families across this country face in their everyday lives.

“I’d like to welcome, Senators Hickenlooper, Luján, and Marshall who will be joining us on the Committee and I look forward to welcoming all of our new members soon.

“Also given that, Senator Warren will be leaving the Committee,  before she does, I would like to say she has been such a powerful voice in this room for families in Massachusetts and nationwide.

“We’ll miss having her at these hearings, but I know that even though she is leaving our Committee, she will continue to be a champion for patients, parents, children, students, borrowers, workers, retirees, and families across the country.

“And I look forward to continuing to work with her to make progress and expand access to quality, affordable child care, ensure health care is a right not a privilege, give every student the opportunity to grow and thrive, reduce student debt, empower workers, and so much more.

“And finally, before we begin, I want to recognize my partner across the dais, Ranking Member Burr and welcome him to this new role.  

“Senator Burr and I have had positive conversations about how this Committee can continue its long history of working together to address issues critical to the American people. 

“I look forward to working with all of you from both sides of the aisle as we address the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic crisis facing many, and so many other critical issues. 

“I hope today is the beginning of a productive next chapter for this Committee—building on our bipartisan history—where we work together to bring nominees and legislation through the Committee and then onto the Senate floor. 

“I look forward to our partnership, Richard.  And I welcome our new members to the Committee and hope to hear about your priorities in the days ahead. 

“I also would like to specifically thank Senator Burr for his willingness to work with me, so that we could schedule today’s hearing with Dr. Cardona, and tomorrow’s hearing with Mayor Walsh.

“Dr. Cardona, thank you for joining us. And I’d like to welcome your wife Marissa as well—I’m glad she could be here with you today – and I know your children are watching as well.  They must be very proud.

“President Biden announced his intent to nominate Dr. Cardona on December 22, 2020. The Committee received Dr. Cardona’s HELP Committee paperwork on January 15 and his Office of Government Ethics paperwork—including his public financial disclosure and ethics agreement—on January 20. His formal nomination also arrived on January 20, 2021.

“While we have not met in person, I am very much looking forward to meeting with you in the future. And I know we will be working a lot together, both virtually, and in-person when we can. 

“I’m excited to start working with you and the Biden-Harris Administration to serve public schools, colleges, students, borrowers, educators, and families across the country.

“And I hope to work with my colleagues here in Congress to confirm you as quickly as possible given the urgency of this pandemic and its impact on students, all the ways former President Trump’s utter failure to handle it have put us behind, and the longstanding inequities this crisis has exacerbated.

“Under the Trump Administration, tests and PPE were hard to get, federal guidance was politically motivated and unclear, and the path to safely reopening schools in-person was chaotic and uncertain.

“Families are counting on us to get things on track—fast.

“The stories I’ve heard from Washington state make clear how desperately we need a Secretary who will work with students; parents and caregivers; educators and school administrators; state, local, and Tribal officials; and public health officials to help schools safely reopen for in-person learning.

“I’ve heard from a mother in Yakima whose children are sharing one iPhone to learn. A father of a high school freshman in Spokane who is worried about the social and psychological toll the pandemic is taking on his son. And about students from the Lummi Nation who are trying to focus on remote classes while in multi-generational households on shared, spotty broadband.

“And I know there are so many similar stories from people in my state, and across the country.

“Our students and schools are in crisis, and every day without an experienced leader at the Department of Education, is a day we are losing precious ground.

“We know the pandemic is setting back learning for all students, and compounding longstanding inequities in our education system.

“Reports estimate that compared to a typical year, this pandemic has set back learning by one to three months for white students, and three to five months for students of color.

“We know remote classes can make learning more difficult—impossible even, for the one-in-four students who have no access to the internet at home, and families of color are significantly more likely to experience limited internet and device inaccessibility.

“We know many students have lost access to critical resources like mental health services, school meals, school counselors, extracurricular activities, and more.

“And the pain of this pandemic isn’t felt equally, instead it is deepening systemic inequities that were already incredibly damaging for students of color, students from families with low incomes, students with disabilities, women, English learners, students experiencing homelessness, and so many others.

“And for those pursuing higher education, it hasn’t only disrupted classrooms and dorms, it has upended our economy, making it harder for students already stretching their budgets to pay tuition, pay rent, and pay for food and other basic needs.

“For parents across the country it is also exacerbating our longstanding childcare crisis, making things that much harder for them and their children.

“We desperately need more funding and resources for schools—like education relief that President Biden called for in his American Rescue Plan— clear and actionable guidance for schools working to safely reopen for in-person learning, more direct financial assistance for students—including student debt relief, and a Secretary of Education who is ready to tackle all of this and more on day one.

“Given Dr. Cardona’s background, there is no question he’s ready for these challenges.

“And after four years of a Secretary of Education who had no experience in public education, I’m thrilled to have a nominee before us who is a former elementary school teacher, a former adjunct professor, a former principal, and a former assistant superintendent.

“As a former preschool teacher myself, I know firsthand how valuable that classroom perspective is when working on these issues.

“And Dr. Cardona won’t just bring much-needed teaching experience to the Department, but also invaluable personal experience.

“As an English Language Learner himself, Dr. Cardona knows that all students can succeed when given access to a high-quality public education.

“And he has spent his whole career working to ensure every student can reach their full potential, no matter the language they speak, or their zip code, income, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.

“As assistant superintendent, Dr. Cardona showed new teachers around the community’s economically disparate neighborhoods to help them understand the students they served.

“And during this pandemic, he has continued to center the needs of students facing inequities in his work as Connecticut’s Education Commissioner.

“Under his leadership, Connecticut became the first state in the nation to ensure every one of its public school students has access to a laptop, and a high-speed internet connection to engage in remote learning.

“Dr. Cardona is a proven, collaborative leader, a champion for public schools, and an excellent choice to lead the Department of Education through the challenges ahead.

“Challenges like meeting President Biden’s goal of safely reopening the majority of our K-8 schools for in-person learning within his first 100 days in office.

“Challenges like addressing learning loss due to COVID—which means fulfilling our moral imperative to measure students’ academic, social, and emotional needs, and provide the substantial resources and guidance states and school districts require to address them.

“And the many challenges that existed long before COVID-19 struck but have become so much more severe through the pandemic.

“We need to address the inequities permeating our education system—from early education through higher education—that make it much harder for students of color, students from families with low incomes, and so many others, to succeed. 

“That starts with long overdue efforts to address inequitable school funding and access to high-quality and rigorous curriculum, racial and socioeconomic school segregation, the use of seclusion and restraint, the school to prison pipeline, and more.

“We also need to make sure every child can benefit from pre-k and early learning experiences that set them up for success.

“We need to address the student debt crisis, and provide student loan borrowers with relief by continuing the freeze on payments and interest President Biden extended, and helping borrowers to reduce their debt.

“We need to overhaul our financial aid system implementing reforms we recently passed in Congress, making it simpler for students and families to get help, and ensuring student loan companies meet high standards of service and transparency.

“We need to make sure higher education is affordable so cost never prevents a student from going to college, and so every student can make ends meet while attending school, and make a living without being crushed by student debt after they leave.

“We need to make higher education accessible, so every person—especially students of color, students with low-incomes, students with disabilities, and others traditionally left out of higher education—can find the opportunity that’s right for them, be it a community college, a four-year college or university—including minority-serving institutions, or a workforce training program or apprenticeship.

“We need to make sure higher education is accountable so every student is protected from bad actors, like predatory for-profit colleges, empowered with better information about college outcomes, and provided the support they need to receive their degree.

“And we need to make sure every campus is safe, from infectious disease outbreaks, from gun violence, and from bullying, harassment, and sexual assault.

“In short, we have a lot of work to do, we have an excellent candidate to help us get it done, and we have no time to waste.

“Any Senator who has heard from a parent who wants to get their child back to the classroom safely—and I am sure everyone has—should vote to advance and confirm Dr. Cardona, without hesitation.

“And I’m hopeful when the time comes they will do just that.

“Finally, I would like unanimous consent to enter into the record 37 letters of support for Dr. Cardona’s nomination for Education Secretary signed by over 400 individuals and groups representing educators, school administrators, civil rights organizations, nonprofits, and a bipartisan group of governors. So ordered. 

“I now recognize Senator Burr to give his opening remarks.”

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