FORT WORTH -- A campaign flier for Cathy Hirt's mayoral campaign that states that almost half of high school freshmen in the Fort Worth school district don't go on to graduate is "absolutely inaccurate," district Superintendent Melody Johnson said Wednesday.
In response, Hirt did not dispute that the flier might be in error, albeit an honest mistake, but she said she is still concerned about city's having an educated workforce.
"If [the flier] is seriously misleading, let's dialogue about that because [students] are leaving, there's no question about that," Hirt said. "The question is why?"
The mailer, sent to voters this week, stated that "47 percent of freshmen in the Fort Worth ISD never go on to earn their high school diploma." It cites the Texas Education Agency as its source.
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Hirt has used the figure throughout the campaign to illustrate what she says is a crisis of the "knowledge economy." For the city to meet its economic potential, she says, it needs to improve its schools to offer an educated workforce to companies who might relocate here.
An educated population also generally has higher incomes and can buy houses and pay property taxes, she has said.
According to the TEA, the actual number of students who start as freshmen in the Fort Worth school district and graduate is 81.9 percent. The dropout rate for the class of 2009 was 17.2 percent, according to the TEA. The remaining fraction eventually earned GEDs.
Johnson said that school administrators as a rule don't get involved in local politics, but she "didn't want the public to have that misunderstanding."
Hirt said she derived the figure by looking at the total number of students who entered school as freshmen in 2005-06 and how many were in the graduating class of 2009.
That number is, indeed, around 47 percent. But it doesn't account for students who moved away. The district is responsible for reporting to the state when students leave and where they go, district official Sara Arispe said.
A flier inviting people to an event where Betsy Price will speak noted that "Fort Worth's high school dropout rate is approximately 30-40 percent."
That was not official campaign literature, Price spokesman Brian Mayes said, but was generated by the event's hosts.
"We did not send that out," he said. "It absolutely did not come from us."
John Henry, 817-390-7539
Eva-Marie Ayala, 817-390-7700