Sep 14, 2021 - Politics & Policy

First look: Education secretary taking back-to-school bus tour

Education Secretary Cardona sits in a chair

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona speaks with Beverly Hills Middle School students. Photo: Pete Bannan/MediaNews Group/Daily Times via Getty Images

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona is taking a bus tour across the Midwest seeking to reassure parents and teachers as safety measures surrounding the pandemic in schools continue to be a political flashpoint.

Why it matters: The Biden administration is grappling with how to maintain in-classroom learning while controlling the spread of COVID-19 in schools. Cases largely involving the Delta variant are surging, and some governors have blocked local districts from mandating masks.

  • Most students across the country are returning to school in person after the pandemic, but those under 12 remain ineligible to be vaccinated.

The details: The secretary will visit five states in the Midwest beginning Sept. 20, stopping at 10 schools and universities over four days.

  • The destinations include Eau Claire, Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Palatine and Chicago, Illinois; Kendallville, Indiana; Toledo, Ohio; and Mt. Pleasant, Lansing, Detroit and Canton, Michigan, according to a release shared with Axios.
  • The secretary will visit students from preschool through college age.

What they're saying: “The return to school this year is more special than ever, after many of our nation’s students have been disconnected from their peers, educators, classrooms, school communities and learning routines for over a year," Cardona said in a statement.

The backdrop: Cardona has waded into the debate over mask-wearing in schools, and the Department of Education has launched investigations into the mask-mandate bans in several states, including Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah.

  • The department will use a component of the law that protects students with disabilities from discrimination and entitles all to a free public education.
  • "The president is appalled, as I am, that there are adults who are blind to their blindness, that there are people who are putting policies in place that are putting students and staff at risk," Cardona told the Times.
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