I went to public school and often have this discussion. I agree that public school is certainly lacking... but i think it has less to do with schooling to a degree and more to do parental involvement and student attitude. I think years ago it wasn't as common to go to college, if you wanted to go then you really had to work your butt off. Now pretty much anyone with a diploma can go.
I'm only 25 and went to public school. I took the same classes as you b/c i wanted to. That's another issue i think... I had the choice. I have friends who took only 1 algebra and then the rest were general math... b/c they had the choice.
In my opinion you cannot give every kid at the age of 12 the choice to build their future. I already knew i wanted to be an engineer luckily and acted accordingly.
anyway, the education opportunity is there at public schools (trust me, the one i went to (Newark High School, Newark Oh) has one of the lowest scores in the state. But it also has a college style campus with 2000 kids who could just walk off campus whenever they wanted, and choose to take the easiest possible route to a diploma. That route could also include being a trouble maker and disruption and being put in the "alternative academy" where all you had to do was not get suspended pretty much and earned a diploma.
Man, i went off track again... anyway while the education system is at fault, if you raise your kid right and they have the head to make the right decisions and try, then the opportunity is usually there.
Funny joke by the way