Richard Barrera


Richard Barrera was first elected to represent District D on the San Diego Unified School Board in 2008 and then re-elected in 2012, both times receiving nearly 100 percent 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 attendance 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 the 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 the strong International Baccalaureate programs, and in developing innovative approaches to cultural proficiency and restorative justice.

Along with a focus on supporting students in the classroom, Barrera has also led the district’s efforts in supporting students and staff through securing billions of dollars in investment in school facilities, including breakthrough investments in 21st century technology and environmentally sustainable infrastructure.  And he has led the effort to honor the work of educators by increasing salaries, maintaining affordable healthcare and increasing effective training for the people who work directly with 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.  Most recently, he has served as Secretary-Treasurer of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, and currently serves as a leader with the United Food and Commercial Workers.

Barrera, a resident of South Park, is married and a parent of two sons, one who recently graduated from high school and the other who recently graduated from college.  Both are products of San Diego Unified.  Barrera currently serves on the Board of the United Way of San Diego, the San Diego Workforce Investment Board, the Center on Policy Initiatives, and the Cesar Chavez Service Club.  He has previously served on the Board of the San Diego Cooperative Charter School, and coached in the North Park Little League.  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.