This here article learned me something about the history of U.S. public education:
"Federal involvement began more than 225 years ago, even before George Washington was president, when Congress passed two laws -- the Land Ordinance of 1785 and the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 -- to create and maintain public schools in the expanding United States.
"Back then, educational opportunities for most children depended on churches, charities, and paid tutors -- and on gender, race and income levels. The founding fathers recognized this problem and emphasized the need for a more educated citizenry in the new democracy.
"Over the next two centuries, these two ordinances led to establishing public schools in the 30 new states created out of the territories west of the original 13 colonies. The specifics of federal land grants were outlined in each of the federal acts for admitting these states."
Get the Federal Government Out of Education? That Wasn't the Founding Fathers' Vision
By Jack Jennings
February 7, 2011 | Huffington Post