Editor's note: After our longtime columnist Tom Danehy wrote a critique of morning daily columnist Jonathan Hoffman's recent columns on #RedforEd (Danehy, Aug. 16), the Weekly invited Hoffman to write a rebuttal. It seemed only fair, and besides, who can resist this kind of old-school columnist feud?
Tom Danehy is a friend of mine, and like many of my friends he is on the wrong side of most political issues.
Recently he took exception to my alternative perspective on the Red for Ed phenomenon as expressed in a couple of my columns in the Arizona Daily Star. If you want to know what got Tom's undies in a knot, you can read them for yourself at tucson.com (search my name).
As Tom pointed out in his column, we met many moons ago when he was the regular co-host on Emil Franzi's radio show, Inside Track, that aired live on Saturday afternoon. They were a great radio team.
For some inexplicable reason, Franzi invited me to join them and I received a start in radio. I did book guests, as Tom mentioned, and I also went on the air with Emil and Tom. This was terribly unfair to Tom who now had to argue with two libertarians instead of one. Alas, when I made a point or shared a fact that resolved the argument in our favor, Franzi would giggle. It happened a lot. I felt bad for Tom. No, really!
Anyway, some of my other friends who read Tom's piece asked, "Gee, is he really your friend? Didn't he just call you a racist?" I replied that he is much like President Trump. They both speak in their own hyperbolic language. If you were to cut Tom's piece into incomplete sentences of 140 characters or less and put them on Twitter, you could hardly tell those two guys apart.
Tom barely finishes his introduction when he signals "He's a White Boy!" to the reader. I assume that this is a sort of insurance policy, not like the Russian Collusion insurance policy set up at the end of the Obama administration, but rather a cue to abandon any more thought and do an imitation of Donald Sutherland at the end of the remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers at any mention of my name.
Tom attacked the Goldwater Institute (GI), suggesting that the people there hate teachers. Well, considering it supports school choice, bringing both choice and diversity to the teaching profession, that's just crazy. I mean, you like choice, right? And diversity? (Cue Donald Sutherland.)
Now, I may be a member of the Goldwater Institute, I may attend the annual dinners, and sure, I have a GI shrine in my study with a framed photograph of Darcy Olsen, but it's not like I light the candle every day. Yes, I know that Ms. Olsen is no longer the president and CEO of the GI, but whose photograph would you rather have adorning your shrine?
Tom seems to prefer the "might makes right" to "rule of law" when it comes to illegal strikes. Well, some of us think that Arizona law does play a role here, as do contracts. The GI reminded district superintendents that, "The refusal of public employees to honor the conditions of their employment contracts is a breach of contract, and a breach of contract constitutes insubordinate and unprofessional conduct under state law. A.R.S. § 15-534(C), (D)", and, "Arizona law does not permit public school employees to strike. Communications Workers v. Arizona Board of Regents, 17 Ariz. App. 398, 400 (1972); Ariz. Att'y Gen. Op. No. 71-12 (R-40) (Apr. 5, 1971); Ariz. Att'y Gen. Op. No. I80-039 (R80-12) (Mar. 18, 1980)."
Tom thinks it odd that I referred to the illegal strikes as "illegal strikes," stating, "In his latest column, he manages to use the phrase 'illegal strike' four times in five paragraphs. I think that one of the Koch brothers offered to slip him 20 bucks if he could pull it off." Yes, and I could have had $100 if I made five of five.
That reminds me of another one of Tom's idiosyncrasies. He really hates it when you refer to schools that are located on government property, run by government employees, with curricula set by the government, as "government schools." You can almost see the steam coming out of his ears. He prefers the term "public schools." I have begun to use the term "district schools" as an alternative, but with Tom it will always be "government schools."
The thing that Tom and many well-meaning teachers forget is that the districts set teacher compensation. That means that the districts are the first place to look for malfeasance and waste.
The national average for classroom spending, which includes teacher compensation, is around 61 percent of the district budget. The classroom spending for TUSD over the last few years averaged around 48 to 49 percent. This last fiscal year, TUSD hit around 51 percent. Jonathan Butcher (no relation) of the GI in a report on waste and fraud at the district level, said, "In Tucson, the district is using approximately half of the space available in its high schools. The auditor reports that the district's plant operating costs are one-third higher than its peer districts (school districts similar in sized)."
So, why did Red for Ed in Tucson look past the problems created by those locals actually responsible for paying them until they found an elected Republican? I tend to believe that even Tom knows the overwhelming answer to that one.
There are some issues on which Tom and I agree wholeheartedly! One of those issues is argued in my recent effort entitled, "Parties Should Reassert Control Over Primaries."
So Tom, the Goldwater Institute Annual Dinner is coming up in October. Want to come along? My treat! By the way, I was kidding about the shrine.
Read Tom's column here.