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Statement From JFF President and CEO Maria Flynn on President-elect Joe Biden’s Nominations for Secretaries of Education, Labor, and Commerce

January 11, 2021

Maria Flynn President & CEO 

JFF applauds President-elect Joe Biden’s nominees to head the U.S. education, labor, and commerce departments and his continued commitment to selecting cabinet members with exceptional experience who reflect America’s diversity. Highlighted below are some of the nominees’ strengths, which we believe will enable them to meaningfully address our nation’s urgent challenges in education, workforce development, and economic advancement. JFF urges Congress to swiftly confirm their nominations. We are excited for these individuals to take on greater leadership and work together to drive coordinated solutions to some of our nation’s most critical challenges in service of creating an equitable economic recovery.

Miguel Cardona, Connecticut Commissioner of Education—Secretary of Education Nominee

Commissioner Cardona is an excellent choice for education secretary because of his support for public schools and his two decades of experience working as a public school teacher, principal, assistant superintendent, and education commissioner. He has shown a strong commitment to advancing education equity, supporting historically underserved learners, and closing the digital divide, and he has demonstrated strong leadership in responding to the COVID-19 crisis. For example, last year, his office announced that Connecticut planned to give every student in the state a computer and home internet access. Once an English learner himself, he has also been a strong supporter for K-12 English learners (who represent one out of every 11 public school students nationally) and will be a strong advocate for expanding and enhancing dual language and bilingual programs. Cardona also attended a career-focused high school and was the first in his family to attend college. These experiences have contributed to his passion for expanding dual enrollment programs and postsecondary options for all high school students and ensuring they receive practical and hands-on experiences that prepare them for in-demand careers.

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh— Secretary of Labor Nominee

As a former Department of Labor executive, I am pleased to see Mayor Walsh’s nomination for labor secretary, given his strong record managing a large city, his commitment to people-centered workforce development and equitable employment outcomes, and his years of experience working with labor unions and as a state representative. Mayor Walsh has shown this commitment by working closely with the Boston Private Industry Council and the city’s workforce development board, and he has put in place new strategies for helping low-wage workers obtain the skills they need to advance in their careers. He has also successfully expanded apprenticeship programs in Boston to hundreds more individuals, using federal apprenticeship funding to help low-wage workers move into high-demand jobs where they can attain college-level credentials and earn family-supporting wages. Walsh established an Office of Women’s Advancement to tackle issues of economic advancement and equity for women. He also expanded Boston’s highly regarded youth employment and training programs to focus on reaching more young people, increasing civic engagement, creating more opportunities for career education and skill development, and promoting youth voice and leadership.

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo—Secretary of Commerce Nominee

Governor Raimondo will be a strong commerce secretary, given her significant experience in the financial services industry and as a state leader. She is the first woman to serve as Rhode Island’s governor, and throughout her tenure, she focused on reducing the state’s unemployment rate, raised the state minimum wage, and provided sick leave for state employees. Raimondo also ushered in the largest infrastructure program in the state’s history and has been an adamant workforce champion who implemented statewide jobs initiatives, worked closely with the business community, and provided training programs for in-need workers. She is also the founder of Rhode Island’s first venture capital fund, and when she was state treasurer, she focused on solving the public pension crisis, improved local municipalities’ ability to invest their assets, and tackled exploitative payday lending practices.

Issues of education, workforce, and economic development are intrinsically linked and require decisive, coordinated approaches at the federal level. We look forward to working with these leaders and the entire Biden Administration to create a more resilient, more prosperous, and more equitable future focused on building a new U.S. economy that supports all families across the vast and diverse communities that make up our great nation.

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