NEWPORT, R.I. (WPRI) — U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona met with education leaders around New England Monday morning in Newport with the hopes of jump-starting learning and preparation for the workforce.

Cardona joined Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green, along with education and business leaders, at the annual New England Education Chiefs meeting at the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Gov. Dan McKee was also expected to attend until he tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend.

They discussed how to build strong pathways and accelerate learning in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cardona says because of the pandemic, the level of need from students is greater than ever before.

Students need to have a voice at the table so education leaders can gauge where they are at and what they need to succeed, Cardona said.

He added that state leaders should use money from the American Rescue Plan to create and expand college and career pathways for students.

“The American Rescue Plan dollars are unprecedented, but it doesn’t stop there,” he said “The President and the Vice President understand the importance of education and they are putting funds into the regular budget each year to make sure this happens.”

“I want to see our level of urgency is matched at the state and local level, not only around funding, because funding alone is not going to get it done. But around policies that are evolving our education system to provide more opportunities for students,” he continued.

Cardona said in addition to offering teachers competitive salaries, educators need to be offered support and working conditions where they feel “connected to the community.”

He also visited Salve Regina for a pell grant anniversary celebration.