The United States Secretary of Education doesn’t visit every day, so Cypress Bay High School rolled out its jazz band as a musical welcome mat.
“I could sent up shop here all day,” Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said to the band director as he watched the students play.
Cardona said he came to Cypress Bay High to observe and to listen.
“Our students are back in the classroom,” Cardona said. “They’re with their peers, they’re with their teachers, and what I saw today is an example of the progress we’re gonna make as a country if we continue to prioritize our students when we talk about education.”
Along with the hometown Member of Congress, U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, (D) Weston, Cardona was joined by the superintendent of Broward County Public Schools, Dr. Vicky Cartwright, and the superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Dr. Jose Dotres, and the chair of the Broward County School Board, Laurie Rich—Levinson.
They saw the school’s FBI Information Technology class and Cardona and Wasserman-Schultz chaired a round-table discussion about the Broward College “Broward Up” program.
“In education, we have to meet people where they are,” Wasserman-Schultz said to the group, which included the college president and students who found new, post-pandemic careers in the program.
“I feel like COVID has been a time where you can reinvent yourself,” said Anna Marie Ferrero, a student who is now entering nursing school, thanks to Broward Up.
It expands access to college classes to people such as single parents or those who can’t maintain a traditional college schedule, by not only offering courses for free but also by bringing them to facilities in their neighborhoods or online.
“This program kind of gave that hope again, that push again that someone is there for us,” said Nadene Plunkett, who lost her job in the pandemic but gained a new career in health care through Broward Up.
Cardona’s department provided $30 million for Broward Up, and Wasserman-Schultz delivered another $2 million in federal funds.
“It provides economic mobility for the participants and the community, this is community development at its best,” Cardona said.
Of course, when a Cabinet secretary pays a visit, inevitably, politics makes an appearance. As students were changing classes, reporters were asking Cardona and Wasserman-Schultz about Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Law, which critics call the “Don’t Say Gay” law.
“The legislature adopted legislation and the governor signed a solution in search of problem, and it creates many more problems for children, many of whom, no matter what’s going on in their lives, are dealing with struggles and mental health issues,” Wasserman-Schultz said.
“You know it’s shocking to me, with leaders that are so against masks, that they expect students to mask who they are, it’s unacceptable,” said Cardona, who called the law a needless intrusion of politics into the classroom.
The law’s supporters say it just gives parents more control over what their kids are being taught.
Cardona put more focus on the programs he saw today, saying they can be replicated nationwide to give students more career pathways.