Civil Rights Organizations Urge Dr. Cardona to Advance Civil Rights and Equity

Contact: Charmaine Riley, The Leadership Conference Education Fund, riley@civilrights,org, 202.548.7166

WASHINGTON – Leading civil rights organizations held a telephone press briefing today to discuss Dr. Miguel Cardona’s historic confirmation as Secretary of the Department of Education and how he can begin restoring the department’s commitment to students’ civil rights and equal educational opportunity for all after Betsy DeVos’ harmful agenda of discrimination and exclusion.

Audio of this call is available here. Transcript of the call is available upon request.

Liz King, senior program director, education, The Leadership Conference Education Fund, said: “The COVID-19 public health crisis and a long overdue reckoning with white supremacy and systemic racism have laid bare the significant barriers facing students and families based on race, ethnicity, household income, first language, disability, sex, LGBTQ identity, immigration status, or other aspects of their background or identity. Long term closures of early childhood settings, K-12 schools, and college campuses, necessary to protect the safety and health of communities, have significantly exacerbated longstanding inequities in our educational system. We support the confirmation of Dr. Cardona because of his experience, his expertise, and his commitment to equal educational opportunity. We are hopeful that he will be confirmed soon and will immediately turn to the important work of ensuring that the Department of Education fulfills its mission to advance public education and protect students from discrimination.”

“This moment of national upheaval is both a crisis and a gift,” stated Dr. Kia Darling-Hammond, director of education, research, and thriving, National Black Justice Coalition. “Our institutions have failed to serve us for too long. Now, while the stakes and the shortcomings are hyper-visible, is the time to design into a thriving future for our students, educators, and the communities they’re from. All of them. The challenge is that we can’t default to what’s familiar: standardized tests, sedentary learning, ranking and sorting people, leaning on violent systems, and allowing a monied minority to strip resources that should be in public coffers. We have to demand better. We deserve transformative justice; passion-and purpose-driven learning; assessments that are valuable to, support the empowered growth of, and affirm learners; data that lets us see our students’ complexities and particular needs clearly and moves us toward the future we deserve; and abundant investments, equitably distributed. Our people, our planet, even our pathogens are telling us to imagine and build beyond what we have already seen. We are overdue to prioritize educating people towards thriving, longevity, self-determination, and a life well lived. The time is now.”

“The confirmation of Dr. Miguel Cardona to lead the Department of Education is a critical step to build back our nation’s classrooms as places where all children can learn,” said Laura M. Esquivel, vice president for federal policy, Hispanic Federation. “Dr. Cardona brings with him a background as a product of public schools, a former elementary school teacher, and an innovative and accomplished administrator that makes him uniquely qualified for this position. Most critically, Dr. Cardona has been a leading voice in calling for a holistic national education policy that addresses K-12 learning through the lenses of housing, healthcare access, and poverty – a perspective our nation’s students, particularly Latino, Black, disabled, and other children in historically under resourced schools, or who have faced other systemic barriers to education such as language and immigrant status, desperately need. An equitable education free from discrimination is vital for our country to develop the workforce our country needs to meet future challenges. At nearly 60 million, Hispanics are the nation’s largest racial or ethnic minority group. Given the decreasing numbers of white and other children in public school and the sharp increase in Hispanic children, it is critical that we have in place a leader like Dr. Cardona, who understands the challenges facing Latino students and their families and who has demonstrated a commitment to those children and families. We look forward to partnering with Dr. Cardona and the entire Biden Administration as they work to rebuild confidence and support for public education at this critical moment.”

Laura Kaloi, policy advisor, The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) said: “The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) looks forward to working with Secretary Cardona during the pandemic and beyond to promote inclusion, combat discrimination and ensure excellence in the education of all children. We will work with the Secretary to fully fund special education, assure states comply with all federal education and civil rights laws, and to improve the status of children with disabilities and Black students who are disproportionately impacted by exclusionary disciplinary practices, especially seclusion and restraint. The 7.2 million students eligible under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the 1.1 million students receiving accommodations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act need the Secretary’s leadership and unwavering commitment so they have every opportunity to learn and thrive.

The Leadership Conference Education Fund builds public will for federal policies that promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States. The Education Fund’s campaigns empower and mobilize advocates around the country to push for progressive change in the United States. It was founded in 1969 as the education and research arm of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. For more information on The Education Fund, visit

The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) is America’s leading civil rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer+, and same gender loving (LGBTQ+/SGL) people, including people living with HIV/AIDS.

The mission of the Hispanic Federation is to empower and advance the Hispanic community. Hispanic Federation provides grants and services to a broad network of Latino non-profit agencies serving the most vulnerable members of the Hispanic community and advocates nationally on vital issues of education, health, immigration, civil rights, economic empowerment, civic engagement, and the environment. For more information, please visit

COPAA is an independent, nonprofit organization of parents, attorneys, advocates, and related professionals; over 90% of whom identify as having a disability; or are parents or family members of individuals with disabilities. COPAA’s mission is to serve as a national voice for special education rights and is grounded in the belief that every child deserves the right to a quality education that prepares them for meaningful employment, higher education, and lifelong learning, as well as full participation in their