Commenter / schoolteacher Maya explains:
What educators do IS important. It allows people to concentrate on their jobs while someone else supervises their kids' educational progress. Sure, you could do it yourself just like you could give yourself haircuts, administer shots to your family and fix your own car. None of it is very difficult to learn. However, a society functions better if people specialize.
Most teachers I know don't want more funds allocated to education. You are confusing us with upper administration (because that's how they get paid). Teachers yell about funds because they aren't allowed to even hint that the problem might lay with the kids and their families. What most teachers want is a different distribution of funds as well as a different work environment.
I can do my job in any old room with a chalk board and a set of textbooks. Heck, I'll buy all the creative supplies since I'm used to it already. You can take away my smart board, but can you, please, hire someone to supervise the detention room? (Can we have a detention room?) Hire 10 of these people; I'll take a pay cut. Also, I deserve every second of my vacation time and more. However, if we could take all the special kids out of the regular classrooms, group students by ability, end social promotion, allow failing grades and put violent criminals somewhere else, I don't think I'd need two and a half months to recover. Two weeks would probably suffice.
In conclusion, you are right. Schools aren't magic. They are just places where kids go to learn stuff. Just showing up won't change anyone's life, won't make up for shitty parenting or fix mental issues/emotional trauma/violent nature. And, as you said, having access to quality education (as ALL Americans do) won't stand in the way of one's dream of ending up in jail.
However, schools are still important and educators aren't the enemy. I'd say we are the biggest victims of this politically correct bullshit. Have you ever been locked in a room with 30 kids who are at 8 different grade levels, some completely illiterate, more than a few initiating fights right in front of you (or through you) and several with severe disabilities and emotional issues? Imagine those kids ignoring you because their parents don't care what they do, the school doesn't allow any disciplinary actions other than calling the parents, the children know that they will pass no matter what and any peep from you about the kids' behavior is interpreted as prejudice. Imagine being required to make a lesson plan for every level of ability, learning style and disability, every day all the while knowing that the kids will probably not even attempt the work because they know they don't have to. Then, imagine knowing that you'll be blamed for the test scores while you bribe the kids with candy to stay awake, at least, during the high stakes tests. (Half of them will still fall asleep and hand in their test booklets without attempting several sections.)