First Lady Jill Biden will visit Meriden elementary school with new education secretary on Wednesday

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Christopher Keating, Hartford Courant
·2 min read
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First Lady Jill Biden will highlight the promotion of Miguel Cardona to U.S. education secretary by visiting a public school Wednesday in Cardona’s hometown of Meriden.

Biden will visit the Benjamin Franklin Elementary School, which educates children from pre-kindergarten to fifth grade, in one of her first trips as First Lady.

Cardona was approved Monday as the new secretary on a bipartisan vote of 64 to 33 in the U.S. Senate. As the son of Puerto Rican parents who has risen to the highest post in American education, Cardona has gained national attention in education circles.

Gov. Ned Lamont, a key backer of Cardona who named him as state education commissioner, will attend the mid-day event.

“We’re thrilled,’' Lamont said Tuesday. “We’ve just been contacted by the advance team. Dr. Biden really wanted to come, and our freshly minted secretary of education will not have to travel far to be there as well. She’s particularly proud and wanted to come to Connecticut because our schools are more likely to be open. We’re thrilled about the fact that she’s going to be here and what it says about our amazing educators.’'

The opening of public schools during the pandemic has been a significant issue in Connecticut and nationally. Both Cardona and Lamont pushed for schools to remain open in Connecticut, although some districts have been engaged in remote learning. President Joe Biden has also pushed for in-person learning and Cardona got on Biden’s radar screen before he was chosen for the top post.

While there are scores of educators around the country with solid academic credentials, Cardona has risen to a high level of consideration for a number of reasons. Cardona’s supporters note that he is one of only 50 state education commissioners nationwide, and that number was narrowed sharply because many of them come from Republican states and might not fit into Biden’s educational criteria.

The First Lady’s trip does not include any other spots in Connecticut before she heads to Pennsylvania later in the day.

Christopher Keating can be reached at ckeating@courant.com