Illinois teachers’ unions celebrate a legislative victory last week after a proposal to give school employees administrative leave for COVID-19-related sick days for themselves and their children was passed by Springfield lawmakers.

The School Employee Allowances and Wage Protection Bill, which is now heading to Gov. JB Pritzker’s office, was defended by the state’s teachers’ unions, who said school employees with young families were forced to use all of their sick days if they or their children contracted the virus or had to be quarantined.

Illinois Education Association president Kathi Griffin said union members had made more than 1,500 phone calls to lawmakers in the past few days to support the bill.

“Many students are too young to be vaccinated, which makes quarantine even more important for the safety of our students,” Griffin said in a statement.

“And in the case of teachers who are at the beginning of their careers, we see them running out of accumulated sick leave and instead of losing their income, they choose to go to work ill or leave the profession to find another job. , Griffin mentioned.

Some critics of the proposal say that if it becomes law, the legislation will certainly disrupt in-person learning by amplifying an already significant shortage of school staff and substitutes.

Pritzker, who may choose to veto the bill, expressed reservations about the legislation in a statement by a spokesperson on Friday.

“This legislation raises serious concerns, including its cost, its potential to destabilize classrooms and discourage vaccinations,” the statement said.

Despite Pritzker’s concerns, a veto on the bill might be unlikely, as the proposal received strong support on both sides of the aisle, pushing the Illinois House from 92 to 23 and the Senate from l ‘Illinois 53 to 1.

If the bill is enacted, it will require school districts to provide COVID-19 administrative days to any employee of a public school or college to be used for all COVID-19-related absences, such as placing in quarantine and testing, IEA officials said. The legislation does not specify a limit on the number of leaves that can be used for this purpose.

In addition, the bill provides paycheck protection for hourly employees, meaning hourly employees would still receive their full paycheck if a school or higher education institution were to close due to a failure. COVID-19 emergency, IEA officials said.

The Large Unit District Association and ED-RED, a suburban organization representing dozens of elementary and secondary school districts, opposed the bill during testimony before the Senate Education Committee last week, stating that “establishing unlimited administrative days off for all school employees will likely exacerbate an already critical staff shortage.

Enemies of the bill say they are also concerned that any sick leave used by a teacher or employee in the 2021-22 school year due to COVID-19 will be returned to the employee.

Importantly, critics say they are alarmed that the bill applies the same leave policy to vaccinated and unvaccinated staff, which could remove an incentive for educators to get vaccinated.

“Our districts have reported higher percentages of quarantines among unvaccinated staff,” officials from the Large Unit District Association and ED-RED said.

Illinois Federation of Teachers president Dan Montgomery said in a statement it was essential that school districts grant “paid time off for teachers and staff who must quarantine themselves when they are themselves or their children are sick with COVID or have been exposed to COVID “.

“It also ensures that non-teaching staff don’t suffer a loss of pay if they can’t work remotely when their school is closed or switches to online learning,” Montgomery said.

“At the same time, it promotes economic recovery and ensures that schools are safe for those who learn and work there,” he said.

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