Illinois governor threatens to veto bill giving vaccinated school staff paid COVID-19 leave

Pritzker reportedly made clear in a letter to the state’s two largest teachers unions that he plans to veto the legislation.
Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker
Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker
(Scott Olson / Getty Images)

A bill giving vaccinated school staff paid administrative leave, rather than requiring teachers and other workers to use sick time, for COVID-19 passed with veto-proof majorities but is expected to be vetoed by Gov, J.B. Pritzker.

House Bill 2778 was sent to Pritzker Nov. 30. The governor has until Jan. 29 to act. He could do nothing, or sign the bill and it becomes law.

But, it’s expected he will veto the measure. The Chicago Tribune reports Pritzker made that clear in a letter to the state’s two largest teachers unions.

A veto would go against the wishes of the Illinois Federation of Teachers. IFT’s John Cusick told a House committee in the fall the measure is imperative.

“To be eligible for paid administrative leave, employees would be required to be fully vaccinated or undergoing weekly testing as provided by their school district,” Cusick said.

The measure would be for school staff, from teachers to bus drivers.

“This will provide some security and consistency for bus drivers,” Teamsters Union representative Mike Ciaccio said. “Knowing that they’re going to get paid and not have to endure two weeks or even two months of no pay will help school districts recruit and retain drivers.”

Supporters say COVID-19 relief from federal taxpayers would cover the costs.

Bridget Peach with ED-RED said the bill could run contrary to local labor agreements.

“They have been able to put the safety of not only their students but their staff on the forefront by being able to make those agreements,” Peach said. “We are concerned that this legislation would not honor those agreements and the hard work that they put in.”

Alison Maley with the Illinois Principals Association worried the measure is too open ended.

“We would like to see at least a sunset for these provisions and a limit on administrative days to continue to provide quality in-person education to our students,” Maley told the House committee.

If the measure is vetoed, the Illinois Legislature would have 15 days to override it. The bill passed both chambers with veto-proof majorities.