As an educator, I see this question as the heart of the changes in the value of education and the shift in the responsibility of the government to provide access of resources to blaming teachers for educational shortcomings. In the 1950s education was considered important for White children with most of the funding was poured into the White schools. Schools evolved into government institutions versus one room schools where all the grades were educated in the same room. Schools located in regions that had populations of Black children were left to fend for themselves as they were provided little funding or support. Desegregation laws were passed, Brown vs. the Board of Education, and led to the segregation of schools.
Education took a front seat in politics because of the baby boomers born following World War II. Higher Education also became important when the GI Bill was passed, which provided the opportunities for the military to obtain a college education. More schools and classrooms had to be built to address the rise in the population of children entering the school system and institutions of higher education expanded to provide for the increased attendance of adults.
The 1960s brought recognition that education could provide the opportunity for children to have equal rights. Education reform opened doors for busing and other actions that would move children from poor districts to schools that had more resources. Under the administration of President Kennedy and President Johnson, funding to the school systems increased and programs, such as free or subsidized lunches, preschool programs, Job Corps, and Title I were put into place.
The biggest change in the 1960s within the classroom walls was in the methods of teaching. The highly structured classrooms and lessons were shifted to a more lax environment where students could have more freedom of movement and choices. The accountability of educational systems fell, and the citizens were unhappy with the curriculum. They advocated for a return to basics in education.
In the 1970s, the high rate of unemployment and inflation led to a reduction in funds provided for education. Many schools began to experience deterioration in their appearance and supplies because of the funding reductions. In 1975, the issue of educational rights to children with disabilities became a high priority with the passing of Public Law 94-142. Financing began a shift toward providing public education to all people, and children with disabilities were transferred into general public schools.
By the 1980s, people and politicians labeled the education system as a failure. Politicians took the stance of school reform. The 1980s were a time of prosperity in America. The government passed higher standards for education and provided additional funding to meet the standards.
Education reform and funding have shifted back and forth. The results have been an uncertain future for the educational system of public education. The United States continues to experience reform and financial shifts in funding with today's schools and teacher experiencing reduced funding at a time when the cost of materials and high expectations have increased.