We recognize the difficult task the incoming administration’s transition team has to identify and assess candidates for cabinet level appointments and key roles. However, we are disappointed that the most recent announcement of Cindy Marten for Deputy Secretary of Education does not make good on President Biden’s promise to show up for the communities who showed up for him, in particular the nearly 8 million Black students and families served by our public education system.
Last month, then President-elect Biden named Miguel Cardona as U.S. Education Secretary, a nomination we applauded because Cardona appeared to be a neutral choice, focused on reopening schools as a part of the Biden Administration’s COVID-19 recovery efforts, potentially minimizing the contentiousness between teachers unions and public charter school advocates. But the choice of San Diego Superintendent, Cindy Marten, an outspoken opponent of charter schools, as Deputy Secretary nullifies the good will President Biden earned with his appointment of Cardona as Secretary.
As Superintendent of San Diego Unified School District, Marten is on record using the same harmful rhetoric used by anti-charter school groups. She has provided testimony promoting extreme anti-charter school restrictions: calling for school districts to be the sole authorizer of charter schools, advocating for districts to set aside student academic needs and deny charter schools citing fiscal impact, and eliminating appeals processes. Without the opportunity to appeal, a critical process in many states, many successful Black and Brown charter schools would not exist today.
Both Cardona and Marten serve districts with less than 10% Black students (or approximately 79,331 students). With their combined experience, there is a limited demonstration of closing education disparities and inequities for Black students and the achievement data for this group leaves even more to be desired. As Black educators, it’s concerning that the Biden-Harris Administration would so flagrantly leave Black students and families behind when identifying leaders for the U.S. Department of Education.
This lack of experience serving Black students will be devastating for all students as schools across the country prepare for life post the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, we know the students who will suffer the most: Black and Brown children, who were already underserved in their schools before the pandemic. We do not have confidence that the incoming administration has nominated a leadership team with the experience necessary to ensure that our education system will not continue to leave Black students behind.
In the specific nomination of Marten, the Biden-Harris administration is signaling to Black and Brown families, who see charter schools as an essential public option in educating their children, what they already feared: your disenfranchisement can continue long after you’ve cast your ballot.