Badtux has an excellent post discussing the K-12 system in the U.S. in terms of quality and costs. While I suggest going to the source and reading the post in its entirety, the following three paragraphs (from the end of the post) are particularly worthy of reflection:
Which brings to a head the real problem with US education: inequality. In the nations that perform best on the test, nations like Finland and Japan, you do not see impoverished kids going to school in schools with no equipment, leaky roofs, and 40 year old books while their teachers get poverty-level salaries, while a few miles away rich kids go to gleaming schools with the best equipment, new books, and high teacher salaries to attract the best teachers. They make a point of giving every student access to the same quality of education regardless of family background or geographical location. A passing acquaintance is currently teaching English in a rural area in Japan. She rotates between three different schools teaching English to elementary school children. She is in awe of the facilities these children have. All the best equipment, gleaming facilities, swimming pools, the works. And this is a rural area generally considered backwards in Japan.
Yet you go to rural areas here in the United States and you see schools that are as impoverished as the ghetto, with decaying buildings and outdated textbooks and little lab and computer equipment and teachers who are paid poverty wages. Why do the Japanese perform so well on the PISA compared to the United States? The fact that virtually all Japanese students have access to good education, as versus here in the United States where your income determines where you live and thus your access to good education, has as much to do with it as the famous Japanese studiousness.
Inequality. It’s the biggest problem with the U.S. educational system, yet it is the problem that nobody seems to talk about. Why is that, I wonder? Could it be that our elites want there to be hoards of poorly educated children who grow up into poorly educated adults who spout Faux News talking points as if they were absolute truth handed down from the Great Penguin above? Naw, couldn’t be that, could it? Could it?