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Call to Action: COVID School Employee Benefit and Wage Protection Bill

By Michael Jacoby posted 12-13-2021 14:03

  


For years, Illinois schools have grappled with a teacher shortage that has made it a constant struggle to staff classrooms and fill positions. When the pandemic hit, the challenge was only exacerbated. The stress of teaching in the COVID-19 era triggered a spike in retirements and resignations that has made it even more challenging for schools to find replacements.
 
Due to current staffing shortages, schools are struggling to remain open and, in some cases, have been forced to revert back to remote instruction. 
 
Illinois ASBO opposed the COVID School Employee Benefit and Wage Protection Bill (HB 2778) because it allows for unlimited paid leave for school employees or an employee whose child must isolate or quarantine for COVID exposure. We believe this will directly hamper in-person learning by creating staffing issues for K-12 schools, exacerbate the substitute shortage and will require school leaders to substitute in classrooms, adding to their growing daily responsibilities.
 
While we understand and respect the intentions of HB 2778 and agree that employees should receive the support necessary to keep themselves and their families safe and healthy, we worry about unintended consequences on schools.  
 
The scope of HB 2778, along with the lack of a sunset provision in the bill, could represent a significant unfunded mandate for Illinois’ school districts. Furthermore, many school districts have already reached memorandums of understanding through collective bargaining and this bill bypasses local control. 
 
Illinois ASBO, along with other education stakeholders, have urged Gov. Pritzker to veto the legislation. The good news is Pritzker is strongly considering it. 
 
"This legislation raises some serious concerns, including its cost, its potential to destabilize classrooms and discourage vaccinations," Pritzker said in a statement according to the Chicago Tribune.
 
Call to Action
On November 30, the Illinois House sent HB 2778 to Gov. JB Pritzker. The governor has 60 days to act. 
 
Here is where we need your help. Please contact your local Representatives and urge them to sustain the governor’s potential veto. The vote in the House, 92-23, was much closer than in the Senate and where we feel we can have success. 

We hope by school leaders sharing how the legislation will impact their district with local Representatives, we can prevent the House from reaching a three-fifths majority, or 71 votes, to override the governor’s veto.  
 
Please make your voice heard and help us prevent this bill from becoming law.  
 
Talking Points 
To help communicate with Representatives, we are sharing some talking points to aid in your email or phone call. Feel free to modify where locally appropriate.
  • We need our students in school and this law could unintentionally push the education community further away from in-person learning.
  • The pandemic has had a dramatic impact on learning and the mental health of students. Being in school ensures students receive the academic and social-emotional support they need to succeed.
  • The legislation invalidates school districts memorandums of understanding (MOU’s) that codify administrative leave and related issues.
  • The legislation undermines the ability of local school districts to use the proven test-to-stay process to prioritize uninterrupted in-person learning by giving teachers the option to stay home instead of testing.
  • The legislation requires school districts to shift federal COVID relief dollars away from the student-focused learning recovery initiatives outlined in previous grant applications to ISBE, toward an unspecified amount of unanticipated employee pay.


To close, we have one last shot at preventing this bill from becoming law. Your voice truly matters in the outcome. Thanks again for your continued support of our students. Have a great Winter Break, and we’ll see you in 2022. 
 

Sincerely, 
 
Madeline McCune
Director of Governmental Relations 
Illinois Association of School Administrators/Illinois Association of School Business Officials 
 
Diane Hendren
Sr. Director of Governmental Relations
Illinois Association of School Administrators 

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12-15-2021 15:36

I received the following response from Representative DeLuca:

Mr. Moore,
 
Thank you for contacting my office and sharing your concerns with HB2778.  I appreciate you taking the time to articulate your concerns so clearly.
 
When the bill was debated, we understood it was not perfect and there were concerns.
 
However, because the bill passed by such large margins, we do not expect a veto from the Governor.  The bill was sent to the Governor at the end of November so we will see what he does.
 
Thank you again!
Anthony DeLuca, State Representative-
80th District

Illinois House of Representatives
195 W. Joe Orr Rd, Suite 201
Chicago Heights, IL  60411
Office: 708-754-7900
Fax: 708-754-7904