Education Secretary Cardona says those pushing to arm teachers show a ‘disrespect’ for the profession


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Education Secretary Miguel Cardona told a Capitol Hill hearing on Tuesday that he believes those calling for arming teachers in schools are showing a lack of respect for the profession, as lawmakers seek solutions after the recent mass shootings.

During a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Cardona also said he opposed school choice and said ‘blended learning’ is not a substitute for in-person learning but could play a role. a role in education in the future.

“Our educators over the past two years have bent over backwards for our students. To think that arming our teachers and now tasking them with unloading a gun into our schools is just ridiculous to think about,” Cardona said in response to a question from Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii.

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“I think it’s a further reflection of the lack of respect for this profession, and I would take issue with that,” Cardona added.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks during the National and State Teachers of the Year event at the White House, April 27, 2022.
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

The comments come after 19 children and two adults were killed in a shooting last month at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. The attack was just one of many mass shootings recently, including an apparently racially motivated attack on a Buffalo supermarket shortly before the shooting in Texas, and a mass shooting in Philadelphia over the weekend.

Some Republicans who say they oppose more gun restrictions are calling for school safety improvements instead. But many Democrats, including Cardona, appear to reject those proposals.

Cardona and several senators also acknowledged Uvalde’s shooting on Friday. The education secretary took time from his opening address to the hearing to read the names of the children and teachers who died in Uvalde.

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“We need to say their names because we remember the responsibility we have as Americans trying to solve difficult problems,” Cardona said.

A banner hangs from a memorial outside Robb Elementary School on Friday, June 3.

A banner hangs from a memorial outside Robb Elementary School on Friday, June 3.
(AP/Eric Gay)

Tuesday’s hearing touched on more than gun violence and school safety, with Cardona explaining why Congress should honor his department’s budget request. Cardona also discussed student loans, Pell Grants, the fallout from the pandemic and school choice with members of the Senate panel.

An intense exchange took place when Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., asked Cardona if he supported the idea of ​​a school choice system in which “the money follows the kid.” Or did Cardona support the alternative, the senator asked, which he called “the old paradigm…where you fund the school itself and don’t follow the child.”

“I believe the latter. I think we need to make sure that all of our schools have enough resources so that we don’t have a system of winners and losers,” Cardona replied. “This budget reflects an attempt to ensure that we correct inequalities.”

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“We need to make sure that all schools provide all students with a high quality education…I think we need to fund public schools so that every student who goes to public school can have a high quality education,” Cardona continued. .

Sen. Mike Braun asks questions during a Senate hearing, June 23, 2021, on Capitol Hill.

Sen. Mike Braun asks questions during a Senate hearing, June 23, 2021, on Capitol Hill.
(Sarah Silbiger-Pool/Getty Images)

The secretary conceded that in some cases schools are not “producing” good results for their students and should be held accountable for their failures. But, he said, “there has to be equal parts support and responsibility.”

Many Republicans, meanwhile, are pushing proposals — especially at the state level — to allow students and parents to choose which schools to send their children to and to reward those schools with funding based on enrollment. That money could go to public or private schools, and conservative proponents of the idea say it would not only help students, but also force schools to step up their game if they fall behind.

Democratic opponents of the idea, backed by teachers’ unions, accuse Republicans of aiming to defund public education and direct taxpayer money to religious or for-profit institutions.

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Cardona on Tuesday also spoke to senators about the massive learning loss suffered by students in areas that have closed schools during the pandemic. Schatz called remote learning a “total disaster” and asked Cardona what he thought about it.

“I think blended learning has a role to play as we move forward in education,” Cardona said. “But I don’t think the transition to fully online learning has worked for most students, although for others, for some students, a small number of students on my visits said they felt more comfortable that way.”

Cardona added, “The majority of students wanted to return to in-person learning.”

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