Grantee Spotlight: Californians Together

Feb 26, 2024 | Martha Hernandez, Executive Director of Californians Together

Grantee Spotlight: Californians Together 

Martha Hernandez, Executive Director of Californians Together 

It may have been 50 years ago that Lau versus Nichols was decided by the Supreme Court, but the case remains a constant reminder of the importance of Martha Hernandez’s work with Californians Together. As Martha explains it, “We just celebrated our 25th anniversary, and during those 25 years Lau versus Nichols has been a cornerstone piece of legislation for us.” 

Californians Together, supported by the English Learner (EL) Program of Sobrato Philanthropies, champions an educational system that ensures every child receives a high-quality 21st-century education. Their vision is for all students to graduate fully prepared for college, career, and civic engagement.

Last year, Californians Together sponsored and successfully passed four bills into law, all of which were grounded in the principles outlined in Lau v. Nichols. Martha emphasizes the necessity for policy accountability to fully implement the intended outcome of Lau v. Nichols.

“We continue to have too many English Learners who do not, for example, receive comprehensive English language development. We also continue to have a shortage of bilingual teachers. And we have an inadequate English-only assessment system and a lack of linguistically and culturally relevant instructional materials.”

Martha recently served on a panel with Ed Steinman, the attorney for the plaintiffs in the Lau versus Nichols case, who expressed disappointment with the lack of progress he’s seen since winning the case. She’s hopeful that several pieces of legislation that Californians Together is advancing, in addition to the Sobrato-funded EL Roadmap, will provide the muscle to better serve English Learner youth and their families.

Crucially, Martha acknowledges the vital role of funders like Sobrato Philanthropies in supporting advocacy organizations. Without such funding, she emphasizes, organizations like hers would struggle to continue their essential work.

“Previously, we were the sole advocates for English Learners, and our messages often went unheard. Now, with the emergence of numerous organizations advocating for English learners, our message is amplified, leading to greater strength and impact in our advocacy efforts.”

Looking ahead, Martha and Californians Together are committed to advancing the legacy of Lau versus Nichols through continued advocacy and robust partnerships with stakeholders.

"Our stakeholders rely on us to advocate for English Learner communities and ensure educational equity," Martha affirms.

For more information about Californians Together, visit