Richard Barrera

Biography

Richard Barrera was first elected to represent District D on the San Diego Unified School Board in 2008 and then re-elected in 2012 and again in 2016, each time receiving nearly 100% of the vote.  He has helped lead the District through the most devastating financial cutbacks in the history of California public schools, by pulling together a community coalition of students, parents, teachers, classified staff, neighborhood, business and civic leaders around a long-term vision of excellence in our public schools.  Despite the budget cuts, over Barrera’s time on the Board students in San Diego Unified have achieved record high graduation and college eligibility rates, record low dropout, suspension and expulsion rates, and today rank at or near the top of large California Districts in reading, math, science and social science proficiency. 

Barrera’s focus continues to be on achieving equity and excellence for all public school students in San Diego.  He has led the District’s efforts in keeping class sizes low for our youngest students, in integrating the arts into traditional academic instruction, in making strong bilingual education available to more students, in expanding successful science and career pathway programs, in partnering with community colleges to expand access to college courses for high school students, in protecting our strong International Baccalaureate programs, and in developing innovative approaches to cultural proficiency and restorative justice.

Barrera has also led the District’s efforts in securing $8.4 billon dollars for school facilities, with successful voter approved bond campaigns in 2008, 2012 and 2018. These bond measures provided breakthrough investments in 21st century technology and environmentally sustainable infrastructure.  And he has led the effort to honor the work of our educators by increasing salaries, maintaining affordable healthcare and increasing effective training for the people who work directly with our kids.

A first generation San Diegan whose father immigrated to the United States from Colombia and whose grandparents immigrated through Ellis Island, Barrera has spent nearly three decades striving to improve the lives of working families in San Diego and throughout the United States.  As a community organizer, he has worked with residents of high poverty neighborhoods to improve quality, affordable housing, access to living wage jobs, and to increase civic participation.  As a labor organizer, he has worked with homecare workers, healthcare workers, nurses, teachers, construction and grocery store workers and thousands of others to fight for economic and social justice.  As Secretary-Treasurer of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, he led the effort to increase the minimum wage and provide paid sick days to over 200,000 San Diego workers.

Barrera, a resident of South Park, is married and a parent of two sons, both products of San Diego Unified.  Barrera currently serves on the Board of the Center on Policy Initiatives and the California Immigration Policy Center, and is active with the Cesar E. Chavez Service Clubs. He is a graduate of El Cajon Valley High School, holds a Bachelor’s Degree in History from UCSD, and a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.