January 26, 2023

By Niele Anderson

Digital Editor


Last Friday marked two years of the Biden administration.

Surrogates and White House officials took to the media to share the administrations successes and hopes as the country moves forward in peril times.  

They highlighted over the past two-years under the Biden-Harris administration, the country has seen economic growth. The unemployment rate is near a 50-year low and Black, Hispanic Americans and people with disabilities are experiencing record low unemployment. 

Biden was able to pass across party lines the infrastructure bill, which in addition to advancing environmental justice, economic revitalization, rebuilding of our communities and highways, it aims to build equity opportunities for communities of color.

President Biden also confirmed the most diverse judicial nominees in history and the president appointed the first Black woman to serve in the U.S. Supreme Court, Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.

On the education front, Biden’s attempt to ease student loan debt has been halted due to the Supreme Court. 

L.A. Watts Times had the opportunity to speak with Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona on the two-year anniversary to discuss student loans and the attack on Black history being taught with the public school systems.

Secretary Cardona was very forthcoming on the subject of student loans, and the hardship it puts on Black borrowers.  He stated, “The president ran on a $10,000 debt relief and upped it to $20,000 for those who are Pell eligible, to address what you rightfully called out as inequities. We know Black borrowers have more debt and are more likely to be Pell recipients.”

Biden’s student loan relief program is currently stalled at the Supreme Court. Cardona was still optimistic regarding the halt saying, “It's such a priority for us to fix a broken system. We feel confident in the lawsuit to be honest with you. I have the legal authority and it's one strategy of many strategies that we have to fix a broken system.”

The Department of Education recently released another student loan debt relief opportunity called the “Income-Driven Repayment Plan,” which sets your monthly student loan payment at an amount that is intended to be affordable based on your income and family size. 

Cardona provided more details to the program stating, “A lot of people talk about loan forgiveness.

While that’s important, I’m more excited about the income-driven repayment plan because it's going to affect generations of future borrowers. 

“You're only going to have to pay what you can afford. People who get a degree and maybe just start off in a job that’s making less than $30,000, their loan payment is going to be zero dollars until their salary goes up.”

He continued, “We are lowering people’s repayment plans in half. Previously, you had to pay 10% of your income towards school loans. For a lot of people that was like five or six hundred dollars. A lot of people couldn’t afford that. What we’re doing is saying no more than 5% of your salary should go towards student loan forgiveness.”

LAWT also had the opportunity to speak with Secretary Cardona regarding the attack on Black history being taught in public schools and the administration's take on the controversy. 

He stated, “It's very concerning. While the Department of Education has no role in curriculum, we do have a role in making sure we communicate the importance that all children feel seen, respected and welcomed in our schools.

“So, these local and state policies that ban teaching accurate history or giving students the opportunity to learn about their history, to me, is an aggression attack on the rights of students and it's an overreach of state government to say which courses students should take.”

Recently, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis banned AP African American history courses in his state. The advanced studies curriculum is set to cover more than 400 years of African American history, touching on topics like literature, political science and geography.  The course is part of a broader AP Program in U.S. High Schools, which gives students the chance to take college-level courses before graduation.

Sharing his thoughts on the subject, the secretary said, “We’re paying attention to what’s happening in Florida and very concerned about it.  What we’ve seen in the past couple of years is state governments limiting what students can do and making students feel uncomfortable in public school settings, we’re not going to stand for that.”

When asked if the White House believes Black history is American history and if it should be taught in schools, Secretary Cardona responded, “Absolutely.”

Category: News