Imagine Your Community Without a Public School

  • School teacher with students

I grew up in a small Finnish community in northern Wisconsin.  My mom finished eighth grade and went to work to help support her family.  Her immigrant parents were farmers on cut-over land.  My dad, the story teller, said he was kicked out of school after the first grade.  He probably quit after third grade because he too had to go to work to help his immigrant parents who were also subsistence farmers.

Like the Norwegians who believe in  “Books Before Bread,” my grandparents and parents were readers.  We couldn’t afford many books, but we always had plenty of newspapers to read–Finnish and English.

I remember looking at the Cosmopolitan section of the Duluth News Tribune one Sunday and slowly sounding out the word: Cos-mo-pol-i-tan. I was overjoyed that I could actually read and have been hooked on learning and reading ever since!

Our elementary school was a six room schoolhouse with an outdoor toilet the first year or two.  That elementaryOld Schoolhouse school was the best experience I could ever imagine.

My first grade teacher, Mrs. Juntti, read to us every day.  Horton Hatches an Egg by Dr. Seuss was one of the first books.  The book spoke to me on so many levels, but Horton’s faithfulness to that egg through all the many trials has been my foundation ever since.

The entire school, first through eighth grade, would put on these amazing Christmas programs.  The week before the performance, we would get on the school bus to go to the high school two miles away to practice.  It was exciting.

The best memory of all was when I was in first grade on the stage singing Here Comes Santa Claus in front of a gymnasium packed with parents, grandparents, and the community.  We were just bubbling and guess who comes walking down the aisle?  None other than Santa Claus himself!  We had never seen a Santa Claus.

The public school has always been the very foundation of our community.  It is the heart and soul of our community–the very rock of our democracy.  And now those public schools are under attack.

One of the wealthiest families in the world wants to privatize public schools: David and Charles Koch with a net worth of over $100 billion.  Americans for Prosperity is the front group of the Koch brothers.  They have spent millions through several different groups in Wisconsin to discredit public schools.  The process of privatizing public schools in Wisconsin has begun.

Imagine your community without a public school.  It is impossible to imagine, isn’t it?  But it will and can happen unless we get involved.