Appointed by First 5 LA’s Board of Commissioners on Nov. 10, 2022, Karla Pleitéz Howell serves as the organizations executive director. Karla has been a relentless advocate to ensure ALL children have the opportunity to thrive. Through community partnerships and innovative strategies, she has helped to increase resources and targeted programs to those most burdened and furthest from equitable opportunities. Karla has a relentless focus on justice and equity.  

Karla launched her advocacy for communities furthest from opportunity as an attorney. She also worked as the Directing Attorney for El Rescate Legal Services, a nonprofit focused on assisting families with immigration legal issues. Karla was the Supervising Attorney for Public Counsel’s Early Care & Education Law Unit in Los Angeles County. Here she led a coalition in the Southeast cities to increase green space and educational opportunities for young children.  

 As an attorney providing legal services for families stuck in the cycle of poverty, Karla saw patterns of systemic injustices and transitioned to work on policy advocacy. She joined Advancement Project California (now Catalyst California) in 2014. She had the privilege to serve as Director of Education, Managing Director and Chief of Policy and Programs. As an advocate, Karla worked to bring coalitions together to increase child care facilities funding, improve quality in Transitional Kindergarten programs and increase access to child care for California’s youngest learners. In partnership with audacious community partners, Karla has helped direct billions of dollars in investments for low-income communities. 

Most recently Karla had the honor of serving as Branch Chief for the Child Care Development Division with the California Department of Social Services. In this role, Karla led efforts to develop the Division’s strategic plan and improve administrative efficiencies. Karla also oversaw the strategic direction and development of the $350 million Infrastructure Grant Program and the state’s child care rate reform initiative. 

Karla earned her BA from UCLA and holds a J.D. from UC Hastings. On weekends, Karla enjoys the outdoors with her husband and family, and loves to listen to the latest humorous philosophical ponderings from their two kids.