Our public schooling system spent $603 billion in 2010, according to the Census Bureau. Roughly half of that went to instruction (53 percent) and the other half went to support services, capital, and “other.”

From 1970 to 2010 K-12 enrollments went from 51 million students to 54 million students, an increase of 6 percent. Back in 1969-70, public school expenditures amounted to $41 billion, or $230 billion in 2010 dollars, growing to $603 billion in 2010, an increase of 162 percent.

That means public school spending outpaced student enrollment by a rate of 27 to one. Surely student performance must have improved commensurately. Nope.

For all that money, the U.S. Department of Education reports that reading and math performance among 17-year-olds is not measurable better than it was back in the early 1970s.

Imagine instead if that $603 billion were divided among the country’s estimated 149 million parents. That would work out to more than $4,000 per parent—and that arrangement likely would work out better for their children, too, based on the flat performance rates over the past 40 or so years.