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Political economic theories of redistributive politics and democratization draw the same logical conclusion: democratic governments distribute more resources to the poor at the expense of the rich. Yet, neither of these theories can fully explain why the public provision of primary education –which benefits the poor- in Latin America, remains relatively low when compared to public expenditures on tertiary education –which benefits the middle and upper income groups. Without fully addressing this anomaly, we are left with an incomplete analysis that creates an environment for ill-informed policy decisions. This paper addresses this gap in the literature by analyzing the redistributive conflict over the provision of public education in Latin America. Making use of a formal model where society is divided in three groups –rich, middle income, and the poor- this research finds that the elite plays a decisive role in the distribution of resources for public education without necessarily capturing the political process. The elite benefit from a more-educated workforce, and prefers that the state absorb the cost of human capital investments. However, poor and middle-income groups favor redistribution that benefits their group the most, namely primary and tertiary education respectively, each at the cost of the other group. When the income of the elite depends more on a college-educated workforce, they will side with the middle-income group at the expense of the poor, entering into a self-sustaining cycle of under-investment in primary education.