The Washington Post reported that two new names have emerged as top contenders for Secretary of Education in the Biden Administration.

Laura Meckler and Valerie Strauss wrote:

Two lesser-known educators have emerged as top candidates for education secretary — a former dean at Howard University and the commissioner of schools in Connecticut, people familiar with the process said.
The first is Leslie T. Fenwick, dean emeritus of the Howard University School of Education and a professor of educational policy and leadership. The second is Miguel Cardona, who last year was named the top education official in Connecticut.

Both have positions that could draw fire, though in different ways. Fenwick is a fierce critic of many attempts at education reform, including some touted by President Barack Obama’s Education Department. Cardona has promoted a return to school buildings during the pandemic, saying it is imperative to get children back to face-to-face learning.

The situation remains fluid, and no decisions have been made. Three people familiar with the process said the transition committee is focusing its attention on these two candidates at the moment. Another person cautioned that others are in the mix. All four spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal conversations.

Fenwick has criticized education programs such as Teach For America — a nonprofit that for years recruited only new college graduates, gave them five weeks of summer training and placed them in high-need schools — and the move to inject competition and corporate-inspired management techniques into schools. She’s also spoken against for-profit charter schools and taxpayer-funded private school vouchers.

She does not just argue that these ideas are misguided but calls them “schemes” that drain money from public schools, driven by people looking to profit from public education. She also says advocacy for these policies is a form of resistance to the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision.

“These schemes are often viewed as new and innovative, but when you look at the history of these schemes — and I use the word ‘schemes’ purposefully — you find that they are rooted in resistance to the Brown legal decision,” Fenwick said in a video published in September.
Instead, Fenwick advocates for more equitable school funding formulas and better access to credentialed and committed teachers.

Cardona was named Connecticut’s education commissioner last year and formally installed after a legislative vote in February. He began his career as a fourth-grade teacher, became the youngest principal in the state at 28 and was named principal of the year in 2012. He also served as co-chairman of a state task force examining achievement gaps.

After the pandemic forced schools to close, he worked to procure devices for students who needed them to participate in remote schooling and pushed to reopen buildings.

“We will continue to do everything we can to ensure as many children as possible have access to opportunities for in-person learning,” Cardona said this month. That comment came in response to teachers union demands that the state meet certain safety precautions or close buildings...

Cardona sees an urgency to in-person school and has pushed districts to offer that to parents, said spokesman Peter Yazbak.

“His position has been that in-person learning is the way that we best address the educational crisis caused by the closure of schools last spring,” he said. “A lot of people who are not from Connecticut assume that Connecticut is just Greenwich. But we have a lot of urban districts with students who have social and emotional needs as well as academic needs. The best way for them to get the services they need is in school, with counselors and their teachers…”

Cardona’s parents moved to Connecticut from Puerto Rico and were living in a housing project in Meriden when he was born. Under his tenure, Connecticut became the first state to require high schools to offer courses on Black and Latino studies.