TOPEKA (KSNT)- U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona stopped in Kansas to kick off a week-long ‘Back-to-School’ tour on Tuesday. Cardona weighed in on the state’s ‘school choice’ debate, as he spoke with reporters.

“I’m all in favor of parents having choice… what I’m not in favor of are public dollars paying the tuition of wealthy families for private schools, because that money is going to come from the local neighborhood school, where they’re struggling to pay teachers competitive salary,  or they don’t have reading support and their students are underperforming,” Cardona said.

Cardona highlighted the importance of providing resources for students and teachers, as they try to recover from struggles during the height of the pandemic.

The Secretary, who was joined by Kansas Governor Laura Kelly and education leaders, visited the Topeka Center for Advanced Learning and Careers (TCALC). The school’s College Prep Academy offers accelerated courses in Mathematics and Computer Science to students seeking advanced learning opportunities.

The tour was related to an announcement Governor Kelly made in July that Kansas has been selected to participate in the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) Policy Academy to Advance Youth Apprenticeship. Through the Policy Academy, Kansas will develop a strategy to expand apprenticeship opportunities to youth ages 16 and older to help them build the skills needed for the modern workforce.   

“I was pleased to welcome Secretary Cardona to Kansas to showcase how the Sunflower State continues to prioritize our students, families, and teachers,” Gov. Kelly said. “We’ve fully funded public schools for five years in a row – making it possible for more students to engage in the kind of hands-on learning that will prepare them for future success.” 

Cardona also stopped at the Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Park, speaking with students and teachers about the need to recruit teachers and maintain teacher diversity in schools. This comes at a time, he says, when public education is under attack.

“There are folks that want to make names for themselves by trying to divide public education or attack and critique it… We’re here trying to raise the bar,” Cardona said.

The “Back to School Bus Tour 2023: Raise the Bar” features stops in Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Throughout the week, Secretary Cardona, Deputy Secretary Cindy Marten, and Undersecretary James Kvaal will join national, state, and local school leaders to speak with students, parents, and educators for events that celebrate the back-to-school season.