The right to speak, the right to know and the right to learn

A week before Christmas, late in the night of Dec. 16, 2015, the Michigan Legislature passed Senate Bill 571 just before recessing for the year.

Some last-minute language was added to the bill. This part, Section 57, subsection 3, never had a public hearing, never had public testimony and had no debate. Most of the representatives and senators did not even have time to read the bill, and it passed.

On Jan. 8, Governor Snyder signed the bill into law as Public Act 269, despite many people asking him to veto it.

This section of the law restricts any public body, like a school board, a city council, a library board or people who work for those groups, from telling people about an upcoming vote. Not how to vote (we already cannot use taxpayer dollars to tell people to go out and vote for or against anything). No, this law keeps people like superintendents, mayors, township supervisors and board members from even telling the facts or sharing the actual language that’s on the ballot for 60 days before the actual vote.

We teach our students about the first amendment to our Constitution: Freedom of Speech. This law really restricts the right of boards and their employees to speak for 60 days before a vote. Boards also have the duty and right to inform their constituents about elected-upon issues. Again, they cannot do that for 60 days before the vote.

We also teach students about the right and responsibility to be an informed voter. How can our voters be informed before going into the polls if there is this gag order to keep information about a vote from them?

If you agree that this law is restrictive and should be repealed, let your state representative and state senator know. They do get and read e-mail, so here is their contact information:

Representative Dave Pagel: DavePagel@house.mi.gov

Senator John Proos: JProos@senate.michigan.gov

 

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

 

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