SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona visited Springfield Wednesday to tout the Biden administration’s education plan to accelerate learning, eliminate a teacher shortage, ensure students have a proper path to college or career and more.
Accompanied by Gov. J.B. Pritzker and state school Superintendent Tony Sanders, Cardona visited Fairview Elementary School on the city’s north side, to promote the Education Department’s “ Raise the Bar: Lead the World” education agenda.
Cardona interacted with kids in the Springfield School District’s after-school SCOPE program, emphasizing the partnership with the city’s Boys and Girls Club as a way to relieve some of the burden on public schools, which have carried greater and greater responsibility for child development beyond classroom learning.
“There is more asked of our schools, which is why it’s really important that our schools are connected to community assets,” Cardona later told reporters. “Which is why it’s important that we invest in mental health supports to have social workers in our schools, so our classroom teachers can teach reading, writing, math.”
Cardona, a former 4th grade teacher, school principal and district administrator, is on a five-state Midwestern tour, using the re-opening of the schoolhouse to spread the word about “Raise the Bar.”
It aims at academic excellence by accelerating learning and ensuring rigor in students’ learning; improving learning conditions by facing down a shortage of teachers and improving mental health resources; and readying pupils for global interaction by ensuring they’re prepared for college or career and providing access to multilingualism.
It’s supported by the Safer Communities Act, a bipartisan agreement providing $2 billion for childhood social and emotional well-being and mental health support, Cardona said. It’s critical, he said, because nationally, there are 500 students for every school counselor, a tragic balance particularly as students continue to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m going to places where I can lift up examples of what’s happening. This after school program is an example of what we need to see across the country to meet students where they are,” Cardona said. “As much as we say, ‘Well, that’s not our job,’ what happens when they come to school, they put their head down because they’re starving?”