Yesterday, South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint (R) ignited a firestorm of controversy by claiming that most kids in Washington, D.C.'s public schools end up as gang members. But maybe before speaking out about education failures in our nation's capitol the senator should focus on school problems in his own state.

Sen. DeMint made the comments yesterday to defend Washington, D.C.'s school voucher program, as The Washington Times reports:
"If you send a kid to [public] school in D.C., chances are that they will end up in a gang rather than graduating," Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican, said during a news conference at which he joined three other lawmakers seeking to keep the voucher program alive.
The statement not only offended families and school kids across the District. Local education officials were also quick to point out that it wasn't even close to accurate.

In fact, D.C.'s public school graduation rate appears to be dramatically increasing. According to the District, graduation has increased to 70% in 2008 -- a big turnaround that puts D.C. on par with the national average.

How does D.C. compare to South Carolina? According to Education Week's "Diplomas Count 2008" study [pdf], the District ranked 47th in the nation for its public high school graduation rate.

Not too great -- but it's a notch above South Carolina, which ranked 48th. According to the study (which is based on 2005 data), Sen. DeMint's home state only graduated 55.6% public high school students, compared to 57.6% the same year in D.C.

Sen. DeMint might also want to look into another dangerous problem growing in South Carolina's schools: the rise of racial re-segregation, in part due to the growth of private schools.

Like other Southern states, desegregation in the 1960s brought a rise in "white acadamies" in South Carolina -- private schools that allowed white parents to avoid sending their kids to schools with black students. (For example, see this study.)

A MSNBC report in 2004 showed how this is playing out in South Carolina's schools:
Take a trip to Scott's Branch Public High School, and you'll be greeted by a student body that is more than 99 percent Black.

Fifty years after the Supreme Court outlawed school segregation, residents say schools in this school district are as segregated as ever.

For proof, they point to a nearby private school, Clarendon Hall, which is 90 percent white and admitted its first black student only four years