In Vince Gray's new negative Web ad attacking Adrian Fenty for running negative ads (the hypocrisy of which earned a gentle scolding from The Washington Post's Mike DeBonis), the D.C. Council chair attacks the incumbent on what is supposed to be Fenty's strong suit: education.
As the ad's narrator declares that Fenty's negative ads "won't help one District kid go to college," the following appears on the screen: "Only 1 in 10 District high school graduates complete college."
The District's schools have a poor reputation, but a number that low would be shocking.
It looks like he got mixed up. Traci Hughes, a Gray spokeswoman, pointed us to the group Double The Numbers DC, which aims to increase the number of college graduates coming out of District public schools.
An October 2006 report from the group doesn't exactly back Gray's claims, however. This is from page 2 of the report:
Only 9 percent of incoming 9th graders complete college “on time” ... The remainder — the more than 90 percent who leave the high school system, never start college or fail to finish their degree — will face a future of diminished opportunities and low-wage jobs.
Only one in 10 entering District freshmen will graduate from college, not one in 10 District high school graduates, as Gray's ad says. That's still a bleak picture, but it's a much different one.
According to the same report — which is now four years old — 43 percent of District high school students will graduate, and about 20 percent of that group will graduate college in five years.
The problem with Gray's attack is two-fold: It's not accurate, and it's based on outdated statistics. (We've put in a request to D.C. Public Schools for the newer ones, and will update this post if we hear back.) If there had only been one mistake, we would have been lenient on the council chairman, particularly since his general point — far too few DCPS students earn college degrees — is dead on.
But using old data, and then getting that data wrong, is sloppy work on the part of Gray's campaign, and it earns the challenger a rating of Total Malarkey.