Open letter from nonprofit re: Heredia trip

This was left in the comment section by Tara Kini, figured I’d break it out in an new entry:

Dear Members of the Hayward USD School Community,

We are writing to commend HUSD Board Member Maribel Heredia for her passionate advocacy on behalf of all California public school students during the week of February 7-11th in Washington D.C. Since 2007—well before she was elected to the HUSD Board—Ms. Heredia has been a plaintiff in the Renee v. Duncan lawsuit, a suit to enforce the “highly qualified teacher” provisions of No Child Left Behind. She is represented in this suit, free of charge, by the nonprofit civil rights organization Public Advocates.

At the request of Public Advocates, Ms. Heredia joined Public Advocates Managing Attorney John Affeldt in over a dozen meetings over four days with members of Congress and/or their staff and the Obama Administration to discuss the effect of current federal education laws related to the definition of the term “highly qualified teacher,” the equitable distribution of such teachers, and the rights of parents to know the qualifications of their child’s teacher. In meetings with Congressional leaders—including Senator Tom Harkin, Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and Congressman George Miller, Ranking Member of the House Education and Labor Committee, Ms. Heredia brought an invaluable perspective as a parent and school board member, contributing in a meaningful way to the national dialogue now taking place around ESEA reauthorization.

Through her advocacy, Ms. Heredia won the deep respect of members of a coalition of over 70 civil rights, disability, parent, student and education organizations who have come together to oppose an amendment passed in December watering down the definition of the term “highly qualified teacher” and to advocate for a fully-prepared and effective for all students as part of the ESEA reauthorization. This coalition includes the NAACP, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, LULAC, the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, the Council for Exceptional Children, the National Center for Learning Disabilities, American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education, and a number of California-based grassroots parent and student groups. Members of this coalition joined Ms. Heredia and Mr. Affeldt for many of the meetings, and, in the process, learned of the successes and challenges faced by a mid-sized urban school district like Hayward in working to ensure all students are taught by fully-prepared and effective teachers. Throughout, Ms. Heredia represented HUSD in a positive and impressive manner.

We first met Ms. Heredia four years ago in her role as one of the leaders in a campaign to ensure that HUSD students had access to clean, safe, school facilities, sufficient instructional materials, and qualified teachers—rights they are entitled to under the Williams v. California settlement. Ms. Heredia’s advocacy in Washington D.C. this month was a continuation of her passionate leadership on behalf of the rights of all students—and especially the neediest students—to a quality education, as well as the need for all parents to get involved in the struggle to improve our public schools. We understand it was this type of leadership that won her the respect of many members of the HUSD school community and is among the reasons she was elected to the school board.

Thus, it came as a surprise to us that Ms. Heredia has been criticized by some for missing the most recent school board meeting due to her trip to Washington (a trip—to be clear— that was fully funded by Public Advocates; no HUSD funds were used.) While we invited her because she is a plaintiff in the Renee v. Duncan suit, Ms. Heredia was a tireless advocate for the rights of all students to be taught by a fully-prepared and effective teacher, and for the rights of all parents to have full disclosure when their child is being taught by a teacher who is not fully-credentialed. Her advocacy in Washington D.C. will benefit both the students of HUSD as well as students across California and the country.

Thank you, Ms. Heredia.

Eric Kurhi