A libertarian businessman based in Raleigh, North Carolina, Luddy made his fortune as the owner of the nation’s leading manufacturer of commercial kitchen ventilation systems. CaptiveAire has factories in six states, and its 2016 revenues were $400 million. But what does fabricating stove hoods and building HVAC systems have in common with turning out successful students? More than you might think.
Luddy became interested in education when he observed that many hires at CaptiveAire lacked the basic math and science skills to thrive on the job. He volunteered to co-chair a statewide education commission and met with North Carolina officials to voice his concerns. “They were happy to discuss all of these ideas,” Luddy says, “but they weren’t going to implement any of them.”
The last straw for Luddy came in 1997, when he ran for a seat on the local school board and lost. It turned out to be a “great blessing,” he says, because it led him to start focusing on creating alternatives to the traditional public schools.
Madison spends about $18,000 per student, far above the national average.