Senator Draws Ire for DC Public School Gang Comment

DeMint relays message from District parents

WASHINGTON -- A South Carolina senator believes he has figured out what happens to young people who go to D.C. Public Schools: They become gun-toting thugs and live a life of crime. 

At least that's according to parents Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) has talked to:

"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."said Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC).

That quote was published in the New York Post.  However, the quote was chopped down a bit in an article in the Washington Times, which didn't include the part about the parents:

"If you send a kid to [public] school in D.C., chances are that they will end up in a gang rather than graduating."

So it seems DeMint was just relaying a message from parents and not calling out all D.C. Public School students, as was reported in D.C. media.  The original Washington Times article has been removed from its Web site.

After it seemed DeMint pretty much insulted most of the population of D.C., local officials quickly refuted the comment, according to the Washington Times online article, which no longer exists:

"He has no sense of what D.C. has to offer making statements like that," said council member Yvette Alexander, Ward 7 Democrat. She also said the senator's remark helps make the case for why the District is seeking "statehood," her description for the effort to give D.C. full voting rights in the House of Representatives.

"No one knows the District of Columbia better than the people who are residents of the District of Columbia. If someone outside of it is to make a gross misjudgment like that one, he should keep his comments to himself," she said.

Council member Phil Mendelson told the Times he found the remarks disappointing.

"I'm a public school parent. My daughter is in third grade, and she is not likely to be a gang member," said Mendelson, an at-large Democrat. "I am quite pleased with the public school system."

Republican Sens. John Ensign of Nevada, Jon Kyl of Arizona, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and DeMint are pushing an amendment to Congress' omnibus spending bill to continue the voucher program, according to the Times.

District Mayor Adrian Fenty has not shown a willingness to fight for the voucher program on behalf of District students.

According to the Washington Post, more than 1,700 District students could lose scholarships of up to $7,500 that allow them to attend private or parochial schools if the bill passes. The average household income of students in the program is $22,736 -- which puts these schools out of their reach without the federal aid, the Post reported.

A Post editorial sums it up like this:

Those clamoring to kill off vouchers wouldn't be distracted by the common sense or decency of Education Secretary Arne Duncan's position; he raised the obvious question of why anyone would want to force children out of schools where they are happy, safe and satisfied.

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