US Senators Question San Diego Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten In Confirmation Hearing
San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy Marten was on Capitol Hill Wednesday, facing questions from U.S. Senators who will soon vote on whether to confirm her as President Biden’s Deputy Secretary of Education.
Much of the questioning during Marten’s two-hour long confirmation hearing centered around the pandemic’s impact on school children. Responding to questions about whether she waited too long to reopen schools at San Diego Unified, she said she relied on local experts and local data.
“Every decision we made was rooted in safety being our strategy as the science was ever-evolving,” Marten said. “As it evolved, we evolved in our implementation and our path forward.”
The tone and tenor of the questioning were largely divided along partisan lines. She received praise from Democrats for her achievements at California’s second largest district, particularly for her work with marginalized students.
“Under her tenure, the district achieved the fastest reading growth in large urban districts nationwide and had the highest graduation rate of all big city districts in California last year,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.
Republican senators were more skeptical, especially in regards to her lack of experience in higher education. Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy questioned her about student loan forgiveness and was frustrated by the lack of a clear answer.
“If confirmed it’s something I’d want to know more about and engage in the appropriate dialogues with the appropriate staff as it moves forward,” Marten said.
“That sounds a little bit like a rehearsed answer,” Cassidy responded. “In fact, it sounds entirely like you were prepped for that.”
While Marten was being questioned on Capitol Hill, about a dozen parents and community leaders gathered in front of the district office to protest her nomination.
In particular, they called her out for San Diego Unified’s disproportionate suspension and expulsion rates for Black students. During the hearing, Marten did not address racial disparities in school discipline but said she has seen success in addressing achievement gaps between Black and white students in literacy and math skills.
“When I started in 2013, our 8th graders were achieving at average across the country, looking at the NAPE scores amongst the big city districts and then in 2019 we were first in the nation in reading and second in the nation in math,” Marten said.
No date is set for Marten’s confirmation vote, but it should come soon. Meanwhile, she will finish out the school year at San Diego Unified and Area Superintendent Lamont Jackson will lead the district on an interim basis until permanent replacement is hired.