ILLINOIS (IRN) — A compromise has been reached regarding a bill that would have provided paid leave for school employees with COVID-19-related issues.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker vetoed House Bill 2778, which passed both legislative chambers last fall with more than a veto-proof majority. The negotiated compromise would provide such leave for only those who are fully vaccinated.
“Vaccines are a vital tool in preventing the deadly effects of COVID-19, and those who take the steps to be fully vaccinated against the virus are doing their part to keep everyone safe,” said Pritzker.
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.
“We want people to stay home when they’re sick, to be able to care for their children when their children need them the most, and to be paid when the circumstances that close their buildings are completely beyond their control,” said Kathi Griffin, president of the Illinois Education Association.
Opponents argued the measure could create a disincentive for those who are not vaccinated to avoid the shot.
Allison Maley, public relations director with the Illinois Principals Association, said the main issue regarding the initial legislation has always been about staffing.
“Even if the money is available, we still don’t have the people, and principals and other administrators are going to fill in for those who are out,” said Maley. “Test-to-stay is great, but if the incentive is to be home and be paid, I think that disincentives individuals from participating in test-to-stay.”
While the agreement Pritzker announced Monday would only benefit school employees who are fully vaccinated, the governor’s executive order on vaccinations for educators included an option for those declining the shot to test weekly.
Illinois Senate Deputy Minority Leader Sue Rezin, R-Morris, was one of the few GOP lawmakers to sponsor the initial legislation.
“My priority is to ensure that schools remain open and teachers are afforded the appropriate time off during this new reality we live in,” Rezin said in a statement. “I look forward to reviewing the proposed language of the negotiated deal once legislation is filed.”
Lawmakers will have the option to take up a veto override when they are scheduled to return to Springfield next month.