D.C. is rebooting its vocational training program for students in its public school system.
On Wednesday D.C. Mayor Gray announced the creation of nine career academies—six will be at traditional public schools, the rest at public charters.
"There are people who still think 'voc ed' means fixing shoes, preparing clothes. Those days are over, ladies and gentleman," said Gray at the announcement. Instead, the academies will focus on teaching students in three high-growth sectors: information technology, hospitality and engineering.
"There's nothing wrong with fixing shoes. I pay my shoemaker quite a bit, but there aren't the plethora of jobs that are available because of technology and what not," said Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson.
She said that the key is pegging the programs to the jobs and industries based in D.C. "So these might not be great for Idaho City or Idaho Falls, but for our job market it is where you can go into various industries," she said.
The District will invest nearly $3 million dollars in the program, which is scheduled to start in 2014.
For D.C. Council member David Catania, who chairs the committee on education, that figure isn't high enough. He notes the mayor wants to spend nearly $150 million dollars to help build a new soccer stadium, but only a fraction of that on technical training for students.
"This is a paltry, almost insulting gesture. It's nowhere near what we need, and this looks the executive can check a box and pretend like its meaningful change, and it diverts people from the fact that this is just a gesture," he said.
A spokesman for Gray dismissed Catania's criticism, saying Catania is more interested in scoring political points than educating children in D.C.