We analyze the emergence of large-scale education systems in a framework where growth is associated with changes in the configuration of the economy. We model the incentives that the economic elite could have (collectively); to accept taxation destined to finance the education of credit-constrained workers. Contrary to previous work, in our model, this incentive does not necessarily arise from a complementarity between physical and human capital in manufacturing. Instead, we emphasize the demand for human-capital-intensive services by high-income groups. Our model seems capable to account for salient features of the development of Latin America in the nineteenth century, where, in particular, land-rich countries such as Argentina established an extensive public education system and developed a sophisticated service sector before starting significant manufacturing activities.