Eric Garcetti was sworn in as mayor recently under a bright L.A. sun, pledging to make Los Angeles a dynamo of economic development. He promised to declare Los Angeles “open for business,” drawing employers and jobs to the city.
As the chairman of the Los Angeles Universal Preschool and the Los Angeles Workforce Investment Board Youth Council, I’d like to offer our new mayor another vital, proven avenue for long-term prosperity and interest from businesses big and small: developing a valuable workforce through investments in early care and education or ECE.
On behalf of the many business leaders, academic researchers, practitioners and families rooting for Garcetti to make good on his promises, we have five ways the new mayor can help advance our economy, build the job base and make our city ready for today’s economy and tomorrow’s, too:
- Make Los Angeles a leader in identifying and sustaining quality ECE. Los Angeles Universal Preschool has developed the 5-Star Quality Assessment and Improvement System for licensed child-care programs serving preschool age children. The system is meant to ensure statewide that early care and education programs have the attributes known to produce results and deliver positive outcomes for children. Both empower parents to identify quality early care and education programs. Los Angeles can and should lead the way to incorporating these quality ratings into the ECE system. Garcetti has a pivotal leadership role to play.
- Prioritize STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education in the dialogue around ECE in Los Angeles. Education experts believe that a workforce lacking in STEM skills can have a long-term negative effect on society. But, unfortunately, children often begin learning basic math skills too late in their education and fail to fully grasp simple math concepts needed to function in adult life. By prioritizing STEM with our earliest learners, we not only help ensure their future educational successes but also help build a productive society.
- Focus on a high-quality ECE workforce with training and professionalization programs. Studies confirm that increasing public investment in ECE can produce substantial educational, social and economic benefits. Providing the ECE workforce with opportunities for additional training and education not only improves the lives of the children they work with but is an important investment in human capital.
- Develop a retention plan for the high-quality early care and education workforce in Los Angeles: Preschool teachers have annual turnover rates of 25 percent to 50 percent compared with a 7 percent turnover rate for public school teachers. This is a symptom of a system that needs reform and professionals in need of support.
- Make ECE part of an overall system of education in Los Angeles. Students who benefit from high-quality ECE are more likely to succeed in elementary, middle and high school. Moreover, investments in ECE are linked to higher average household employment and income levels. Incorporating ECE into the continuum of child and youth services in the city of Los Angeles makes economic sense.
As a native Angeleno and longtime public servant, Garcetti knows well the challenges the L.A. economy faces. By prioritizing early learning and making investments to support the critical ECE workforce, he has the opportunity to ensure a vibrant, growing economy for generations to come. We are excited to work with Garcetti and his team to make Los Angeles a national leader in early care and education, and, in doing so, the national economic force he envisions.
David Crippens is chairman of Los Angeles Universal Preschool.