D.C. Council Chairman and mayoral candidate Vincent Gray's campaign promise of "birth-to-24" public education is already under way and succeeding, according to school officials aligned with Gray's opponent, Mayor Adrian Fenty.
In Gray's education plan, released earlier this month, he emphasized the need for a "holistic" approach to education, implying that Fenty has failed to provide enough services for the city's infants and toddlers, as well as recent high school graduates.
Fenty's administration "hasn't addressed it at all," said Gray campaign spokeswoman Traci Hughes.
She emphasized Gray's desire to identify special needs students before they reach kindergarten so as to mitigate more expensive issues later in life.
But D.C. Public Schools spokeswoman Jennifer Calloway said the District has made strides in that effort since 2009, when it opened the Early Stages Center to identify 3- to 5-year-olds with special needs.
Children qualified for services increased from 440 in July 2009 to 819, or about 4 percent of all 3- to 5-year-olds, in May 2010, Calloway said. The center is "on target to evaluate more than 1,200 children" in fiscal 2010, three times the number evaluated in fiscal 2009.
Gray's plan also called for more career and technology training in high school -- a need Calloway again said is being addressed.
She shared a spreadsheet detailing career programs offered at each high school, from HVAC repair to early childhood education. A proposed spreadsheet for the 2010-11 school year provides additional tracks from nursing to masonry.
In addition, students in grades six through 12 next year will create portfolios to identify their secondary and post-secondary options.
Gray's education plan also includes initiatives outside the purview of the school system, such as increasing parents' subsidies for certified child care, and adding a local supplement to the Federal Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit. Child care advocates have criticized Fenty for making cuts to child care subsidies since 2007.
But as council chairman, Gray also made cuts to early education initiatives, said an official with the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education. They include about $1 million over two years to a program offering home visits to special-needs infants and toddlers.