Gangs, graduates, and Sen. Jim DeMint

GANGS, GRADUATES, AND SEN. JIM DEMINT…. The conservative Washington Times has a front-page piece today on school vouchers in Washington, D.C., and a Republican press conference on the Hill yesterday. Specifically, the article quoted far-right Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) telling attendees, “If you send a kid to [public] school in D.C., chances are that they will end up in a gang rather than graduating.”

That’s clearly wrong — D.C.’s 70% graduate rate isn’t far from the national average — and more importantly, it’s rather offensive.

But DeMint saying offensive things is pretty routine. I bring this up for two other reasons.

First, a spokesperson for DeMint insists the senator was misquoted.

“The Washington Times misreported Senator DeMint’s comments, they were not his opinion, he was in fact quoting a D.C. mother who had spoken to him this week of her concern for her child joining a gang,” Denton wrote.

The email also links to a New York Post account of the press conference, which gives the quote as follows: “Parents tell us . . . if they are sending their kids off to public schools, the chances are very good that they are going to end up in a gang rather than graduating high school.”

Now I wasn’t there, and I don’t know which of the accounts is more accurate. But if we accept the version from the New York Post, how is this any better? Unless DeMint disagrees with what “parents tell us,” it’s the same sentiment.

Second, by this afternoon, the Washington Times had removed its front-page article from the paper’s website altogether. No explanation, no editor’s note. Times articles usually stay online indefinitely, but this article, for some reason, is gone. Odd.

Post Script: Matt Finkelstein also notes that South Carolina, DeMint’s home state, has a graduation rate of almost 56%, making it far worse that D.C., and the fourth worst in the country. Regrettably, DeMint probably wants to privatize education there, too.