By Jonetta Rose Barras Examiner Columnist
In the 'hood, D.C. Council Chairman and mayoral contender Vincent C. Gray would be accused of talking loud and repeating what has already been said -- which is akin to saying nothing.
His "education plan" released last week lacks freshness and innovation. It appears to have been lifted from education documents developed by Mayor Adrian Fenty's administration, or programs already instituted by D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee.
For example: Gray said he would "work with the business community to build rigorous, high quality career and technical programs." But DCPS already has established a half-dozen CTEs, including biotechnology with Montgomery College and Aviation Maintenance Technology with the Community College of the District of Columbia; both institutions provide actual college credits.
He pledged to establish International Baccalaureate and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs. But DCPS already has such programs. In the Fenty administration's federal Race to the Top application, which appears on the Web site for the Office of the State Superintendent for Education, the mayor and his team have proposed to expand those programs.
No doubt the RTT application was a treasure trove for Gray and his policy wonks.
Incredibly, Gray didn't just mimic the mayor's education agenda; he also contradicted his own previous positions.
For example: Gray said he would "recognize and reward high performing teachers." He was among those council members who fought similar efforts by Rhee for nearly three years. Even after she won approval from the teachers union to institute a pilot pay-for-performance program, Gray and others have remained critical of the plan.
Gray said he would provide an education continuum from zero to 24 years old. But as I wrote in this space earlier this year, he blocked implementation of a Fenty administration "zero to three" program, which included pre-natal care, home visitations and parental training.
Additionally, Gray pledged to "transform the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Education."
But Gray, fueled by his dislike for the current occupant of that office, has systemically reduced its budget and stripped it of key areas of responsibility, diluting its influence and effectiveness.
Remarkably, Gray failed to identify how he might pay for certain aspects of his plan -- providing additional financial support to public charter schools or doubling the number of guidance counselors citywide, for example. He has said savings from improving special education will produce the necessary funds.
If Fenty had made that "don't-worry-about-money" pronouncement, Gray and his council colleagues would have been all over him, calling him irresponsible, among other things.
Undoubtedly, Gray and his campaign have deliberately exploited the reality that most voters aren't intimate with the details of education reform. But those who have closely followed such events won't find any substantial difference between Gray and Fenty's plan -- except the council chairman offered his with a warm smile and the promise of tons of town hall meetings.
There's one more thing: Fenty has been implementing his plan for the past three years.
Jonetta Rose Barras can be reached at email@example.com.