Thanks to the Economist, I discovered an interesting report from McKinsey & Co. on the costs of our inadequate educational system. A key finding:

If the United States had in recent years closed the gap between its educational achievement levels and those of better-performing nations such as Finland and Korea, GDP in 2008 could have been $1.3 trillion to $2.3 trillion higher. This represents 9 to 16 percent of GDP.

Ok, those are small, homogenous countries and maybe don't offer a good comparison. But merely bringing black and Latino students up to the level of white ones in the U.S. would add 2 to 4 points to GDP. The economic consequences of our education failures dwarf the nation's current financial woes:

...the persistence of these educational achievement gaps imposes on the United States the economic equivalent of a permanent national recession.

What a sad story at every level.