The gift of public education

Published 9:45 am Thursday, December 3, 2015

In this season of giving, I hope people get a chance to pause and reflect on one of the greatest gifts this country has given its citizens. That’s the gift of a free public education to anyone in America. Our public schools do not charge tuition.

Our laws provide free K-12 education for any child in Michigan. For residents of our districts and accepted Schools of Choice students, we offer opportunities regardless of religion, race, gender, or ability. In this season of getting the best bargain, we offer the best deal around this time of year and any time of year — a chance for every boy and girl to be successful in life.

Public schools can and do make a difference in people’s lives. My own family is a perfect example. I was a scared, shy little boy when I went off to first grade at Eastside School in Niles, in 1956.

Unlike other classmates, I didn’t know my ABC’s, couldn’t tie my shoes, and had never even been around too many other kids. I came from the woods of northern Minnesota, in a place that didn’t even have a kindergarten.

My mother scraped together enough tuition to send me to another district’s kindergarten for about a month. Thanks to a great teacher, Helen Burkland (later Hoover), who took me under her wing, I grew and thrived in school, so much so that I’ve been in school one way or another ever since. Neither of my parents had a college degree, but they valued education so much that my four siblings and I all graduated from public colleges and each of our collective 16 children also earned college degrees.

So, in this the giving season, parents and grandparents, give to your children:

• The gift of hope. Remind them how school can make them better.

• The value of going to school every day. We need better attendance from our students so we can do our best job.

• Your attention and time — talk to them about school that day, read to them, share good memories from your own school days.

• And, remember — none of these gifts cost a dime!

During this time of giving and thanks, I personally want to thank the Niles Daily Star for giving me this opportunity to write a column every month. If my Mom and Mrs. Burkland could read it, I hope they’d be proud!


John Jarpe is the superintendent of Brandywine Community Schools. He can be reached at (269) 684- 7150.