First of all, you must have been around in the 1960's when you could get a full-time factory job and that would pay for college. That doesn't exist on either side. There are no good paying factory jobs, and even if there were, You still can't afford college.
You are right, we pay more for our education system than anyone else, but that is a misleading statistic. We are the largest 1st world country, so we will spend more money on our schooling just due to salary. There are inefficiencies, but the real reason we are behind everyone else is time. We are the only nation that takes summers off. So when we graduate from High school we have 2 years less schooling than a student abroad.
You are right, money doesn't solve problems, it just repairs buildings, buys desks, pays for art and sport programs, buys books, pays for teachers and bussing, but fuck all that, we need to spend that money elsewhere. The kids can sit around the fire while their pastor tells them what's best. These damn entitled kids.
I would also like you to cite some resources on where the "poorest students are often times the best" From my experience, working poor families have either single parent, or dual employed parent situations. Usually working shitty shifts that don't allow them the time to work with their kids. If you are rich you can afford a tutor and a doctor, if you are poor, you just get labeled as dumb.