Groups Support MEA in Defending Voters’ Rights

Remark Offensive to Voters and to the Electoral Process

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, March 5, 2009

CONTACT: LEIGH FIFELSKI
517-999-3646

LANSINGProgress Michigan, Michigan Election Coalition and Asian & Pacific Islander American Vote-Michigan joined the Michigan Education Association in blasting the Michigan Association of School Boards today and its executive director, Kathy Hayes, over an offensive and inflammatory comment made by Hayes in regards to the electoral process in school board elections. During a meeting with members of the Grand Rapids Press editorial board, Hayes remarked that the “right people” rarely tend to show up for school board elections, sparking accusations of insensitivity and ignorance.

“Everybody deserves the right to vote – not just a few choice individuals who seem to fit the profile of what Ms. Hayes and the MASB are looking for,” said Professor Jocelyn Benson, Election Law Expert at Wayne State Law School. “The fact that every taxpaying citizen in the United States is guaranteed the right to decide who their leaders will be is one of the most fundamental principles of our country.”

The groups joined the MEA in calling on Hayes and the MASB to issue a public apology for her comments, renouncing the idea that elections must be voted in by certain groups of people, but not all taxpaying citizens. The groups demanded that Hayes define what was meant by “the right people,” and asked that the offensive comment be clarified and retracted. The groups also argued that Hayes and the MASB have undermined the electoral process in this country by claiming that elections are not attended by the “right” people.

The comments came while Hayes bemoaned MEA’s involvement in the democratic process. “Setting aside the fact that MEA members, as taxpayers, have a right to make their voices heard under the Constitution of the United States, we are helping to do exactly what she wants – helping voters make educated decisions,” said Doug Pratt, Michigan Education Association director of communications. “No one knows better what students need than the professional educators who have dedicated their lives to serving students. We want voters to be well informed on the issues and select candidates who will make the right choices about investing in the future of our students and our economy.”

School board members comprise the largest body of elected officials, and are entrusted to set policies for schools and the nation’s children. Every school district has a board of education, and all voices from the community, including union members, taxpayers, and educators, deserve to be heard equally.

“Hayes is bemoaning MEA’s involvement in the democratic process. Setting aside the fact that MEA members – as taxpayers – have a right to make their voices heard under the Constitution of the United States, we are helping to do exactly what she wants – helping voters make educated decisions,” said Doug Pratt, Communications Director for the Michigan Education Association. “No one knows better what students need than the professional educators who have dedicated their lives to serving students. We want voters to be well informed on the issues and select candidates who will make the right choices about investing in the future of our students and our economy.”

“Kathy Hayes must apologize for her deeply offensive comment immediately. The right to vote cannot be undermined by anyone, and Hayes must retract her inflammatory remark to protect the education of our children,” said Leigh Fifelski, Progress Michigan.

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