Duncan's model: Sonia Sotomayor's mother

“We need more parents like Sonia Sotomayor’s mother,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan urged in a speech to the National Council of La Raza in Chicago. From Learning the Language:

In the July 28 speech, he said, “We need more parents like Sonia Sotomayor’s mother, who said, ‘You will study hard and you will succeed at college and you will graduate — even if I have to work six days a week to make it happen.’ “

Mrs. Sotomayor worked six days a week to send her children to Catholic school.

Duncan made a plug for bilingualism and stated his support for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or “DREAM Act,” which if enacted would provide a path to legalization for undocumented students who graduate from U.S. high schools and serve in the military or go to college.

But he didn’t discuss what education policies he thinks would help English Learners or Hispanic students do better in school.

Sotomayor's choice

Sonia Sotomayor’s personal experience — her mother sent her to Catholic schools — may shape her decisions on school choice, writes Andy Smarick in The American.

Of course, it remains an open question how Judge Sotomayor would apply her Catholic school experiences should she be confirmed and face a school voucher case. On the one hand, she might fully appreciate the invaluable gift she was given by being able to attend Cardinal Spellman High in the Bronx. She might reflect on today’s low-income urban parents’ hopes for great schools for their kids. She might consider the heretofore futile efforts to adequately improve traditional city school systems and the tragic impact on students growing up in public housing units similar to those of her childhood.

On the other hand, Barack Obama, who attended private school and sends his children to private school, hasn’t backed school vouchers for low-income Washington, D.C. children.

Sotomayor: Catholic school girl

Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor went to Catholic schools as a girl in New York City, reports the New York Times. Her father died when she was 9; her mother worked as a nurse to support her daughter and son, who became a physician.

In speeches to Latino groups over the years, Judge Sotomayor has recalled how her mother worked six days a week as a nurse to send her and her brother to Catholic school, purchased the only set of encyclopedias in the neighborhood and kept a warm pot of rice and beans on the stove every day for their friends.

The family moved from a housing project to a middle-class neighborhood when she was in her teens, which has undercut the hard-luck story.  Sotomayor went to Princeton on scholarship, then to Yale for law school.

A widowed nurse with two kids doesn’t have an easy time. But, if she spends her limited income on encyclopedias and school tuition, her kids will get the message that education is valued.