Rafael Ramirez has had a long and varied career supporting education and education policy in both state and federal roles. At the federal level, he worked in the office of Senator Bingaman, (Democrat, New Mexico) where he helped craft the legislation creating the National Hispanic Serving Institutions Bill. Within the Department of Education, he helped to write the legislation for the national Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) program for college outreach for underrepresented students, becoming the program’s first National Director.
He was consultant to the Joint Committee to Develop a Master Plan for California Education, at the same time joining the NLA (now renamed ALTERA) Board, joining the Board in 2006. He was Vice President for Development for the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF). He then pivoted in his career becoming trained as a director for two early childhood programs and worked on early childhood education policy and legislation in California, in particular California’s Transitional Kindergarten (TK) program.
Rafael received Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature both from the University of Washington (1973 and 1974 respectively), in part through the Teacher Corps Program, a two-year program helping minority students simultaneously earn a BA and a teaching credential. In 1973, he attended the University of London on a Marshall Scholarship, receiving a Master of Arts degree in 1976. He returned to the state of Washington for the first of several teaching positions in elementary and middle school. He attended graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley earning a teaching credential and acceptance into their Ph.D. program, College of Education. As he completed his doctoral coursework, he was encouraged to take a legislative assistant position in educational policy for Senator Jeff Bingaman Democrat, New Mexico, to experience federal policy level work with the ultimate intention of returning to academia.
When Senator Bingaman was given a position on the Senate Education, Health, and Labor Committee, Ramirez’s job changed from policy advisor to education legislative assistant. In this position, he crafted the 1993 legislation for the National Hispanic Serving Institutions Bill. In 1994 he accepted a position with the North Central Regional Education Laboratory investigating the nascent deployment of technology in schools, and ultimately became lead author of the monograph “Byting Back,” evaluating deployment of technology in schools. In 1997, as a Clinton Fellow attached in the Department of Education, he worked with Edward Fuentes to create legislation for GEAR-UP, eventually becoming Program Director.
In 2001 Ramirez became consultant to the Joint Committee to Develop a Master Plan for California Education, studying education systems in California with a focus on Student Learning. This same year, he joined the Board of Directors of the Northwest Learning and Achievement Group (NLA, later renamed Altera) supporting the work of developing student achievement in rural communities in Washington state.
Ramirez served as Vice President for Development for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF). Through his work with MALDEF he became involved in working with the community of Boyle Heights in Los Angeles. He earned an MA in Child Development and a Director’s permit, then became Director for two early childhood development programs in Boyle Heights. Ramirez believes that early childhood education is the most important time of a child’s education. He worked on early childhood education policy and legislation in California, in particular the Transitional Kindergarten Program and was an initial working member of the Los Angeles Preschool Advocacy Initiative (LAPAI).
He is now retired and supports the educational journey of his two daughters, now 18 and 14, who both attended preschool in his programs. As a Board member of Altera, Ramirez sustains his passion for early childhood education through his continued development and assessment of Treasure Box, their parent-taught, in-home, Pre-Kindergarten curriculum.