Providing universal preschool and doubling the number of student internships are important parts of Long Beach’s education and economic future, Mayor Robert Garcia said Friday in his first policy address since his inauguration. The preschool mandate, an evolution of a proposal Garcia made in March as a member of the City Council, follows the lead of other cities such as San Francisco, New York, Austin and Tulsa, the mayor told a group of 150 educators and civic leaders gathered for a luncheon sponsored by Cal State University. Making preschool accessible to all children is not just about education but also the city’s economy, Garcia said. “They can go get another job and provide for that family if they have some type of childcare, particularly early in that youngster’s life,” he said. Internships also could positively impact the economy, he said. Of 50,000 public school students in Boston, more than 10,000 participate in internships, according to Garcia. In Long Beach, where there are 80,000 public school students, only 1,500 participate in workforce learning. “I want to ensure that Long Beach is committed to linked learning,” Garcia said, referring to work related to class study, pledging to double that figure by the end of his first four-year term. The initiatives were part of a five-point plan for education presented by Garcia that included working with the education community to restructure the city’s Technology Services desk into a Department of Technology and Innovation to help solve civic challenges, and looking for the city and community to partner to provide affordable housing for teachers, college faculty and staff. To illustrate the problem, Garcia said that two married graduates of Cal State Long Beach with teaching degrees who are committed to public service cannot easily afford to buy a home, even pooling their salaries together. “The key thing here is this is not just a benefit to the faculty,” Garcia said. “This is a benefit to the city. If we were to build affordable housing in Long Beach for faculty, we would transform that neighborhood overnight.” The final part of the education blueprint called for increased cooperation between the city and the educational community on the Long Beach College Promise, a joint commitment by the Long Beach Unified School District, Long Beach City College and CSULB that offers free first-semester tuition to Long Beach high school graduates at LBCC. The promise also offers CSULB admission to Long Beach students who complete minimum college preparatory requirements or minimum community college transfer requirements. Garcia’s education goals were given as one of five major initiatives for his first term that included maintaining a conservative fiscal policy, increasing access to government, creating a more sustainable city and encouraging job creation in healthcare, education and technology. At CSULB, his alma
mater, Garcia also talked about the importance of education in his own life as an immigrant from Peru who became a citizen while at college. “The ability to become an American and have access to those services is one of the great things we value and treasure about this great country of ours,” Garcia said. While acknowledging his goals are ambitious, Garcia, a college professor, said they are things he is passionate about. “I believe in them because of the value of public service and the value of treating everyone equally (that) I’ve learned at this institution,” Garcia said.