I hadn't talked with Marshbaum for a couple of years, ever since he left newspaper journalism for more lucrative work in the fast food industry. But here he was in my office to ask if I would publicize his new educational adventure.
"That's great!" I said. "You're finishing the last three years of college."
"I own the school. CEO of Little Minds Charter and Voucher Corp. We're on the leading edge of the trend to privatize schools."
"How does mumbling into a broken speaker box make you qualified to run a school?" I asked.
"Interpersonal communication skills," he replied. "That, and knowing how to count change and arrange work schedules for the three minimum-wage high school kids on my late night shift. It's all administration and proper marketing." He thrust a full-color three-panel promotional flyer at me. Buried in small print was the tuition cost.
"That's a bit high, isn't it?" I asked.
"With loans, grants, and governmental assistance, it's almost affordable."
"We'd be bankrupt if we didn't get it," said Marshbaum. "Because the state wants to privatize everything, it gives families a yearly check to send their uncultured little cookie crumblers wherever they want. Family gives us the money, and we teach their children the importance of sexual abstinence and the free enterprise system."
"I suppose you're making radical changes in education," I snickered. Marshbaum didn't disappoint me.
"You bet your Number 2 we are. We're on track to become the state's most cost-effective school. Conservative politicians love us. Cutting expenses is where it's at."
"What did you cut?"
"First thing we did was order our classroom supplies from China. That saved us over 50 percent. Got a great deal on ugly desk-chairs."
"You obviously don't understand the concept of "Buy American'," I suggested.