Governor Albert Bryan Jr. and Missouri Governor Michael Parson, the co-chair of the National Governors Association’s (NGA) Community Renewal Task Force, met via Zoom on Tuesday with U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to talk about how the Association can most effectively work with the Biden administration to further education in the country.
The discussion touched on digital learning and maintaining the technology levels brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic; college and career readiness and increasing workforce development; education disparity between different school populations; and the opportunity the pandemic presents to restore the U.S. education system at a level better than it was before the coronavirus.
There is an opportunity to make education better than it ever was, and simply returning to the level education was at in March 2020, when the pandemic shut schools across the country, is not the goal, Secretary Cardona said.
“I can’t think of a time, definitely in my lifetime, where we’ve had as much of a reset button as we have now to correct the things that we know are issues,” Cardona said.
Bryan raised the issue of the federal government telling states and territories what they cannot do but providing a map or guidance of what they should do.
“I think what you said is so impactful when you talk about being able to access policy or ideas from other states and having those things available to you, so you don’t have to re-create the wheel,” Bryan said.
The governor also asked Secretary Cardona about maintaining the new level of technology in the schools that was a result of adapting to the pandemic.
“Is the administration thinking about ‘How do we maintain this level of technological expertise for every school?’”
A lot of these parent are not going to be able to buy back these devices when they are done, and school systems are going to have problems funding them as well,” Bryan said. “How do we move now to an age where we have our students working with technology every day, and how do we support the federal government in terms of creating and supporting that environment?”
Cardona said that while it is a challenge and the Chromebook is the new pencil, it will be necessary to shift the priorities for education in the nation. The governors and Secretary Cardona also discussed curriculum disparity and the challenge of assuring that all students have access to the necessary tools to make them viable as productive members of the workforce.
Bryan expressed his hope and anticipation of the NGA working with the Biden administration to use the pandemic’s changes to the national education system as an opportunity to make it better than it was before COVID-19 struck and fix problems that existed before the virus.
“That’s the kind of change that we need. I look forward to working with you, and the NGA is here and we’re available to speak with you about your ideas and help get those out to our governors. We see ourselves as partners to you and the entire administration,” Gov. Bryan said. “I know it’s cliché, but the student population really is the changing force. Especially now that we’re speaking their language in technology, that we’re into their medium, we could do some amazing things in the next four years.”