Handing a win to the Chicago Teachers Union, Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday signed into law a measure that will allow fully vaccinated teachers and other school employees to take COVID-19 related paid time off without burning up sick days.
Pritzker vetoed a similar version of the bill shortly after the January standoff between the CTU and Chicago Public Schools, saying then that he needed revised language to ensure the agreement would only apply to vaccinated employees.
The compromise bill that passed the Legislature last week will also return COVID-19 related sick days to vaccinated employees who had to use them earlier in the school year.
The governor’s office issued an advisory late Monday saying he would sign the “legislation cementing COVID-19 sick leave protections for vaccinated school staff” at a ceremony Tuesday morning at the Illinois State Capitol.
The law took effect immediately upon being signed by the governor.
It applies to all fully vaccinated employees of Illinois public school districts, universities and community colleges. The paid administrative leave will also apply to employees who have children who are required to stay home from school for COVID-19-related reasons, and it provides wage protections for all hourly school employees such as janitors or bus drivers who must miss school during a school closure or e-learning day.
The Illinois Education Association, which worked with the Illinois Federation of Teachers on the compromise, said some of its support staff and teachers have exhausted their sick and personal days because of the pandemic and have been using unpaid time off to quarantine or for other COVID-related reasons.
“We have educators who saved their sick time to take after the birth of a child, who have since run out of days and are forced with a very difficult decision — to take unpaid time off or to cut precious bonding time with their newborn short and return to work early,” Illinois Education Association president Kathi Griffin told the Sun-Times in a statement.
In addition to the teachers’ unions, the measure was also supported by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the AFL-CIO.
CPS was among the opponents of the initial measure, fearing it would strain school districts already dealing with staff shortages. But on Monday, CPS officials said they appreciated the compromise bill “as it gives further incentive for school employees to be vaccinated.”
The CTU walkout in January stemmed from disagreements with the city about coronavirus testing and when to close schools amid a COVID-19 surge. The two sides came to an agreement of sorts after five missed school days.