Would "The Donald" be satisfied with public school return on investment?
Imagine that I was on "The Apprentice," and Donald Trump gave me a very special project: teach 100 children how to read. Because of the vital nature of this project, Trump gives me five years and $4 million to get the job done. $4 million is equivalent to the total revenue provided to Arizona public schools for 100 non-special education students for five years.
"Hire your team, solicit whatever outside help you can for your task, but get the job done!" barks the Donald.
Five years and millions of dollars later, I am in the dreaded Board Room. I begin my presentation with the good news: 52 of the 100 children can read at a basic level or better.
"Ahem..." Trump says, clearing his throat, "what about the other 48 children?"
"Ah, well, ummm, they score 'below basic' in reading," is my sheepish reply.
"Below basic? What does that mean?" Trump angrily inquires.
"Well, it means those students don't understand the meaning of a fourth grade reading passage," I reply.
"What will happen to these children now that you have failed to teach them to read!?!" Trump demands.
Sullen, I say, "Most will never catch up. They will fall further and further behind grade level until they start dropping out in middle school."
"Ladner!" the Donald exclaims in an angry hiss, "YOU'RE FIRED!"
Matthew Ladner is vice president for research at the Goldwater Institute.
-National Center for Education Statistics: State Profiles
-National Center for Education Statistics: The NAEP Reading Achievement Levels by Grade
-Goldwater Institute: "Opening the Books: 2006 Annual Report on Arizona Public School Finance"