ST. LOUIS – United States Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona kicked off his Raise the Bar bus tour this morning at Compton Drew Middle School.

“It’s the beginning of the school year; kids and parents are excited, and we want to raise the bar,” Cardona said.

Cardona is on a multi-state journey through the Midwest as part of his tour. Cardona met with the St. Louis Public Schools superintendent, counselors, and social workers to discuss the challenges Missouri students are facing.

One of them is the teacher shortage, which has forced at least five school districts within 100 miles of the metro area to adopt a four-day work week. Cardona said students need a full week of learning, and it starts with compensating teachers.

“If you look at our Raise the Bar strategy, we do have specific strategies aimed at lifting the teaching profession and making sure we are fighting for competitive salaries,” Cardona said. “Our students need more. We are not going to be competing internationally if we are cutting the week by 20%.”

Cardona also spoke about Missouri’s social-emotional learning standards during his visit, and the disdain some parents have toward the curriculum.

“I respect different opinions. Parents should be able to voice their concerns,” Cardona said. “We always welcome parent engagement and parent thought, even if it’s disagreeing with what we know to be best. Talking to school counselors, when children are sleeping in a car and don’t have running water and come to school needing help, having a social worker there is critically important.”

Cardona’s bus tour continues in Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin as he highlights President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan meant to help recruit more teachers nationwide.