Golf Hecklers of the Arizona Left

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

JPGB readers will of course remember the great American film Happy Gilmore in which Adam Sandler plays a hockey player who joins the pro golf tour in order to save his Grandma’s house. Happy’s nemesis, Shooter McGavin, employs a heckler to get under Happy’s dome while golfing.

Happy, easily frustrated, loses his cool and gets beat up by Bob Barker.

So taking a page from the Shooter McGavin playbook, the left has given me a stalker of my own. David Safier, a retired teacher and blogger, has taken to spending his time playing the role of “Jeering Fan” to my Happy Gilmore. Safier blogs at Blog for Arizona, a multi-author blog of the Tucson left.

Some time ago, Safier claimed that I had simply manufactured a $9,700 per student revenue figure for the Arizona public school system. Making the assumption that Safier was open to evidence, I produced links to the Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction’s Financial Report and the Arizona’s legislature’s research arm documenting the figure.

Chuck Essigs of the Arizona School Business Officials, not someone inclined to often agree with me on education policy, nevertheless had the intellectual honesty to admit that the full spending per pupil figure is around $9,500.  Sadly, the response from Safier essentially amounted to putting his hands over his ears and muttering talking points from his teacher union pals. Something about lunch money for Twinkies getting into the revenue report. No word yet on how this nefarious twinkie money made it into the expenditure report.

The Tasty Magic * of the Arizona Left- We spend $6,000 per pupil-Nothing to see here-Move along

Slowly but surely BfA references morphed from “friend of the blog” to “right wing propagandist” and such. Ah well, no good deed goes unpunished.  A little tour of the Arizona left wing echo chamber proved educational if not satisfying.

Safier has now blogged up a series about Florida, but can’t get even the most basic facts straight.  For instance, Safier tries to claim that the improvement in Florida’s 4th grade reading scores began in 1994, before the reforms. If one visits the NAEP website, however, one learns that Florida’s reading scores were 208, 205 and 207 in 1992, 1994 and 1998.  On a 500 scale point test, the technical term for that is “as flat as the highway between Dallas and Fort Worth.” Mere bouncing around with very low scores.

After 1998, however, scores increase to 214 in 2002, 218 in 2003, 219 in 2005 and 224 in 2007.  A rough rule of thumb is that 10 points approximately equals a grade level worth of learning on NAEP exams. So during the 1992-98 period, scores dropped by a point.  Between 1998 and 2007, they increased by 18 points.

So, the average Florida 4th grader is merely reading at a level almost two grade levels higher than Florida 4th graders were in 1998. Also, Florida’s minority students began outscoring multiple statewide averages back in the early aughts. Nothing to see here! Move along!

In the imaginarium of Safier, the Florida reforms are advancing at the behest of a vast right wing conspiracy foisted upon an unsuspecting Arizona at the behest of the evil Dr. Ladner.

Grade your schools or I'll blast you with my "laser"

The truth is that other states have adopted Florida reforms, still others are considering adopting Florida reforms. The vast majority of people, regardless of ideology, want to see public school improvement.  Sadly, some are so emotionally wedded to the idea that such improvement is only possible if we spend $30,000 a child that they make themselves look silly.  Hopefully this crowd will eventually put on their big boy pants and join the adult conversation.

Until then, I guess they can continue to heckle from their self-imposed exile on the sidelines. In the end, Happy wins the tournament, gets the girl and saves Grandma’s house. The heckler gets stood up by Shooter McGavin at the Red Lobster.

9 Responses to Golf Hecklers of the Arizona Left

  1. allen says:

    Why concern yourself with the lefties who are welded to the educational status quo when there are lefties who’ve discovered that the educational status quo sucks?

    Democrats for Education Reform is pretty up-front about their support for charters, Race to the Top. They think Florida’s educational improvement is just peachy although you wouldn’t know the reforms were driven by a *Bush* from the their take on those improvements and despite the fact you guys don’t seem to willing to admit it Obama did manage to extract a concession out of the Senate Democrats grandfathering the current batch of kids in the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program through high school. Had it not been for Obama’s pressure the program would’ve been zeroed out, sorry kids, that’s the way it goes.

    It seems to me that energy would be a lot more profitably used trying to put together a left-right educational reform coalition then sniping at lefties who’ll go to their graves angry at any undercutting of the district system.

  2. Greg Forster says:

    Matt: A little tour of the Arizona left wing echo chamber proved educational

    So you’re saying they do make a positive contribution to education?

    Allen: energy would be a lot more profitably used trying to put together a left-right educational reform coalition than sniping at lefties who’ll go to their graves angry at any undercutting of the district system

    Those are not mutually exclusive activities. You can often help do one by doing the other. And vice versa.

  3. Alsadius says:

    If the test is out of 500, how is 10 points a grade level? I mean, I’m not familiar with the test, but that seems like a really odd way of building a test to me. It’s not like 18 points from a 207 baseline is bad or anything, of course, but it seems like too low a numerical shift to represent “almost two grade levels” unless the test has a very heavy bias to the middle.

  4. Patrick says:

    Florida’s gains are across the board, not just in reading:

    We get the same hecklers here in Nevada. Public education folks only focus on the state appropriations – ignoring county and federal funds.

    My favorite, beyond the constant claim that we are 49th in per pupil spending (we rank 26th to 47th depending on what is counted and how it is calculated) was when the state’s Assembly Speaker claimed the budget cuts to K-12 education would reduce spending by $900 per pupil. The spokesperson from the Nevada Department of Education corrected her saying it would be closer to $30 per pupil, some confusion ensued and he was asked to check his math to see if he meant $300 per pupil.

  5. Matthewladner says:


    I think a left/right consensus, broadly speaking, already exists on education reform, and yes, the fact that Barack Obama is strongly in favor of charter schools and merit pay is very reflective of that consensus. Obama’s stance on these issues differentiates him as a part of the serious left rather than the flat-earth crowd. There is a reason that Obama desires to disassociate himself from the flat-earth crowd, and I think Greg has put his finger on why that is the case.

    • allen says:

      The consensus does exist. What doesn’t exist is explicit, public cooperation.

      Has Jay addressed the Democrats for Education Reform? Has the big cheese from DER addressed a charter school group? Is there a Bi-partisan Education Reform organization?

      As I understand it, the establishment of public education in the U.S. depended on the cooperation of groups who, under differing circumstances, would happily cut each other’s throats. I’d say that the continuing vitality of charters and the continuing survival of vouchers suggest that the political atmosphere surrounding public education is such that it might be time, once again, for groups who under other circumstances would happily cut each other’s throats to cooperate.

  6. matthewladner says:


    I think this group fits the bill:

    • allen says:

      Naw, a bit too focused on education.

      I’m talking about the sort of coalition, an cockeyed combination of do-gooders, the self-interested and ideologues, that helped launch public education in it’s current form.

      The industrial union folks who wanted to reduce competition for jobs by locking the kids into schools. The child welfare types who wanted the kids out of the factories and in school. The industrialists who wanted a uniformly-educated work force acclimated to regimentation. The visceral authoritarians like Horace Mann for whom acclimating kids to regimentation was just an obviously good idea.

      I think some of the pieces of that coalition are beginning to show up although there are other players who don’t yet see that they have a dog in this fight: mayors, municipal unions, anti-tax activists.

      The Educational Equality Project doesn’t have the feel of that sort of coalition.

      I’m talking about having Father Theodor Hesburg, Grover Norquist, Gerald W. McEntee – president of AFSME and maybe Michael Bloomberg all on the dais together, all struggling with the urge to pitch most the others off the dais, or out the window, restrained by the knowledge that together they might effect a change that none of them could effect individually.

  7. Florida Soeaks says:

    UPDATE: Florida grade 12 NAEP scores were below average in Reading and Math. See what happens as a result of expsure to Jeb’s bag of tricks? Stop the politics.

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