Golf Hecklers of the Arizona Left

February 16, 2010

(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.