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Pritzker Signs Bill Creating Paid COVID Sick Leave For All Vaccinated School Employees

The measure also restores COVID-related sick days to employees who had to use them earlier in the 2021-2022 school year.

Poe teacher Kimberly Washington, who has taught at the school for 14 years, collects assignments from her Spanish class before the pandemic hit Chicago.
Maia McDonald/ Block Club Chicago

CHICAGO — Gov. J.B Pritzker signed into law a bill that gives paid sick leave to all fully vaccinated Illinois school staff who have to take time off for COVID-related reasons and provides wage protection for hourly school employees who miss school because of closures or e-learning. 

The bill creates paid administrative leave for all  employees of public schools, charter schools, community colleges, and universities throughout the state who have to stay home for COVID-related reasons. It also restores COVID-related sick days to employees who had to use them earlier in the 2021-2022 school year.

The bill “ensures that if a teacher has done their part to keep their classroom safe for their most vulnerable students, they won’t have to worry for a second about their pay or their paid time off if they get COVID, if they’re required to isolate or if the school has moved to e-learning and their work can’t be done at home,” Pritzker said Tuesday morning at the state capitol.

The bill, which went into effect immediately, passed both chambers of the legislature in late March. 

School employees can also use the benefit if their child has to quarantine because they either contracted the virus or were in close contact with someone who did. For bus drivers, janitorial workers, lunchroom staff, and classroom assistants impacted by school closures or e-learning days, the bill will protect hourly wages. 

“Because of this new law, when I have to miss school to keep students safe and prevent the spread of COVID, I don’t also have to worry about how I will pay my bills, or if I need to think about finding a different job,” said Angela Bolger, a paraprofessional at Central Elementary School at Central School District 104, who spoke during the signing event.

Bolger, who started working at her district in August 2021, had to take off eight days due to COVID-19 during the school year. Bolger contracted the coronavirus in January during a surge in cases due to the highly contagious omicron variant and had to miss work because her 7-year-old daughter was exposed to the virus.

Bolger’s school district only gives school employees 11 sick days per year and she was concerned that her pay would be cut if she missed any more days. 

Dan Montgomery, president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, thanked Pritzker for signing the bill. 

“By signing this bill today, Governor Pritzker has provided important relief and ensured that education personnel can afford to take time off if they or their families become ill with COVID-19,” Montgomery said in a statement on Tuesday. “His leadership will help keep our students and communities healthy even as new variants arise and COVID rates in our state fluctuate over time.”

Samantha Smylie is the state education reporter for Chalkbeat Chicago, covering school districts across the state, legislation, special education, and the state board of education. Contact Samantha at ssmylie@chalkbeat.org.

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.