Announcing an agreement with unions representing Illinois educators about paid COVID-19 leave for vaccinated school staff, Gov. J.B. Pritzker has vetoed a bill that was opposed by some school management groups.
House Bill 2778 passed both legislative chambers with more than a veto-proof majority in the fall legislative session. The measure would have given educators the ability to take administrative time off for COVID-19 related issues rather than sick time.
Unions representing educators and school staff supported the measure, saying it was needed to guarantee educators and staff get paid when they are out of school, or when a school goes remote because of COVID-19. Education administrators worried the measure would increase costs and add to already existing staffing shortages, leading to increased school closures.
Pritzker vetoed the bill Monday, but announced an initiative in coordination with the Illinois Education Association and the Illinois Federation of Teachers.
“This collaborative initiative will provide paid administrative leave for education employees who, despite doing all they can to keep themselves and their communities safe, continue to have their lives and livelihoods disrupted by COVID-19,” Pritzker said in a statement.
“We applaud Governor Pritzker for his steady support of science and good public health and thank him for working with us to provide teachers, school staff and higher education professionals with critical resources that will help them keep kids safe and schools open,” Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery said.
Among the initiatives Pritzker’s office announced is paid administrative leave for every employee of a public school district, public university, and public community college who is fully vaccinated, or whose child is required to be excluded from school because of a positive COVID-19 test result or close contact.
The agreement also restores sick leave for every employee of a public school district, public university, and public community college who is fully vaccinated.
And, the agreement maintains wage protections for all hourly school employees, including but not limited to custodial, transportation, food service providers, classroom assistants, or administrative staff.
“This protection applies for the entire 2021-22 school year, including any days that a school has already closed or switched to e-learning which caused the paraprofessional to go without pay or take their own earned paid time off,” Pritzker’s office said.
“This joint initiative renders the contents of HB2778 moot, and today I veto House Bill 2778 from the 102nd General Assembly in its entirety,” Pritzker said in his veto message to legislators.
Alison Maley, Government & Public Relations director for the Illinois Principals Association, said the group is reviewing the latest agreement but remains concerned about staff shortages.
“We appreciate the Governor’s action on HB 2778 and look forward to reviewing language on this new agreement,” Maley said. “Acknowledging the difference in exclusion requirements for vaccinated and unvaccinated educators and staff is an important step to maintaining in-person learning. We continue to be concerned about the shortage of substitute teachers and staff to accommodate administrative and sick leave and look forward to working with the General Assembly and the Governor on addressing short and long-term solutions for this ongoing crisis.”
Lawmakers have the option of taking up a veto override when they return in the first week of February.
This article was originally posted on Pritzker vetoes teacher COVID-19 leave measure, announces similar initiative with unions