Miguel Angel Cardona, a distinguished American educator, has been serving as the United States Secretary of Education since 2021, under the administration of President Joe Biden. Born on July 11, 1975, in Meriden, Connecticut, to Puerto Rican parents, Cardona’s journey from the classrooms of Meriden to the corridors of Washington D.C. is a testament to his dedication to education and public service. A member of the Democratic Party, his confirmation by the U.S. Senate on March 1, 2021, with a vote of 64–33, marked a significant milestone in his career. Before his appointment at the national level, Cardona made substantial contributions as the Commissioner of the Connecticut State Department of Education from 2019 to 2021.
Cardona’s early life in Meriden was shaped by the challenges and experiences that would later inform his approach to education and policy. Raised in a housing project, he navigated the complexities of learning English as a second language, a struggle that many English-language learners face across the United States. His academic journey led him from H.C. Wilcox Technical High School, through a bachelor’s degree in education from Central Connecticut State University, to advanced degrees, including a Doctor of Education from the University of Connecticut. His dissertation focused on addressing the achievement disparities between English-language learners and their peers, showcasing his early commitment to educational equity.
Cardona’s professional career began as a fourth-grade teacher at Israel Putnam Elementary School in Meriden. His passion for education and leadership skills quickly propelled him to become the youngest principal in the state at Hanover School, Meriden, at the age of twenty-seven. His tenure as an educator and administrator in Meriden was marked by his dedication to closing the educational gaps for English-language learners, a commitment that would remain a cornerstone of his career.
In 2019, Cardona’s leadership skills and his focus on educational equity led to his appointment as the Commissioner of Education by Governor Ned Lamont, becoming the first Latino to hold this position in Connecticut. During his tenure, he navigated the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing on the mental health impacts of remote education and the need for equitable access to education for all students.
Cardona’s nomination and subsequent confirmation as the United States Secretary of Education was a pivotal moment in his career. His selection over other high-profile candidates signaled a commitment to educational equity and diversity at the highest levels of government. Throughout his tenure, Cardona has been instrumental in addressing pressing issues such as the mental health impacts of the pandemic on students, the need for federal assistance to combat threats of violence in schools, and the implementation of student loan forgiveness programs. His efforts to solicit a letter from the National School Boards Association to the U.S. Department of Justice underscored his proactive approach to ensuring safe and supportive educational environments.
One of the defining challenges of Cardona’s tenure has been the administration’s efforts to provide relief to students burdened by loan debt. The Supreme Court’s decision in Biden v. Nebraska, which struck down the administration’s broad loan forgiveness plan, did not deter Cardona. Instead, he has continued to advocate for smaller, more targeted forgiveness programs and the reinforcement of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, demonstrating his commitment to reducing the financial barriers to education for Americans.
On a personal note, Cardona’s life is enriched by his family. Married to Marissa Pérez, a former Miss Connecticut and family-school liaison, they share two children, Miguel Jr. and Celine. Cardona’s Catholic faith and his family’s support have been central to his life and work, grounding his commitment to service and community.
Miguel Angel Cardona’s career reflects a deep-seated belief in the power of education to transform lives and societies. From the youngest principal in Connecticut to the United States Secretary of Education, his journey is a testament to the impact of dedicated public service and the enduring value of advocating for equitable access to education for all.