Jill Biden to visit two reopened schools as part of education focus

First lady Jill Biden will make a trip to Meriden, Connecticut, and Waterford, Pennsylvania, on Wednesday to visit two public schools that have recently reopened for in-person learning.

Biden will be joined on the trip by newly confirmed Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, who was sworn-in Tuesday evening by Vice President Kamala Harris.

“(Biden and Cardona) will highlight the key (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) mitigation strategies that the schools have implemented successfully in these locations,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at Tuesday’s press briefing.

In Meriden, Cardona’s hometown, the pair will tour Benjamin Franklin Elementary School, and Fort LeBoeuf Middle Schoo in Waterford. The purpose of the trip — Biden’s first as first lady under the umbrella of bolstering education, one of her key initiatives — will be to determine the challenges schools are facing with the return of in-person classes, including “the academic, social, and emotional needs of students,” Psaki said.

Like Biden, Cardona is a lifelong educator.

“Secretary Cardona — his number one priority is reopening schools,” Psaki said. “Certainly, taking a trip with the first lady is an indication of his commitment to that.”

Cardona began his career teaching fourth grade in Meriden; by 27, he was Connecticut’s youngest school principal. In 2019, he was appointed state commissioner of education. The Senate on Monday voted 64-33 in favor of confirming Cardona as education secretary.

Biden and Cardona will assess what if any additional resources will be needed for the schools they are visiting to remain open, said Psaki. President Joe Biden has pledged to reopen most schools by May, within his first 100 days in office, and is pushing Congress to approve another $170 billion in education funding as part of the $1.9 trillion stimulus package.

Jill Biden has been a teacher for more than four decades, earning her doctorate in education in 2007 from the University of Delaware. Biden is currently a professor in the English Department at Northern Virginia Community College, where she teaches classes remotely via Zoom. Biden is a member of one of the largest teachers’ unions, National Education Association, and she has stated that supporting educators will be one of her primary issues during her time as first lady.