The Biden Administration’s New Secretary of Education: An Overview

With the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States comes a new executive branch of government. President Biden honored his campaign promise to nominate a teacher for Secretary of Education by choosing Dr. Miguel Cardona, who currently serves as Connecticut’s education commissioner, to run the Education Department (ED). Throughout his career, Cardona has exhibited a commitment to the arts and has recognized the importance of arts education for students.

department of education

Cardona has had a lengthy career in public education. A former teacher, principal, and district administrator, he recently experienced a rare, rapid ascent in public service. Less than two years ago, Cardona was an assistant superintendent in his hometown’s 8,000-student district. Hailing from Meriden, Connecticut, Cardona was appointed to the post of Connecticut Superintendent by Governor Ned Lamont in August 2020. He spent most of his career in Meriden, where he grew up in a family with a rich musical tradition that continues today. His peers describe Cardona as efficient, vigilant, and a leader who looks at the big picture. As an administrator in an urban public school district, Cardona ensured that all students received quality music education, equal access to instruments, and comprehensive curricular and co-curricular music experiences. NAfME members Brian Cyr and Dr. Dee Hansen, who have worked with Cardona during his time as Associate Superintendent and Commissioner, say that he “understands the needs of the whole child” and that “he supports arts access for all students. CMEA President Dr. Amy Bovin, described Cardona as an avid supporter of K–12 music programs. Cardona has worked well with CMEA to support music education in the state. Bovin, in conversation with NAfME staff, stated that he has “always been willing to listen” and that he has “created one of the safest educational environments in the country.”  Dr. Cardona himself has relayed to Bovin that he looks forward to working with arts education organizations in his new post.

If confirmed by the Senate (a hearing has been scheduled for today, Wednesday, February 3rd at 10am), Cardona will be responsible for implementing President Biden’s plan to safely return students to school within the first 100 days of his administration. During his acceptance speech, Cardona recognized the painful effect the pandemic has had on educational disparities. In a recent interview with Connecticut Public Radio, Cardona explained that he views the Education Department’s role during this time “to support states who are working to develop policies . . . to safely reopen schools.” NAfME looks forward to working with Cardona and this administration to address the many challenges that lie ahead, and to ensure both safe measures and best practices for music education are implemented at the state level, as schools return to in-person instruction.

Matt Barusch, State Advocacy Engagement Manager, February 3, 2021. © National Association for Music Education (