In what has become a seemingly common practice during the COVID-19 era, one of Gov. Pritzker’s recent Executive Orders created new mandates for Illinois schools with little of the necessary information on how the schools should move forward. In this case, Pritzker ordered schools to follow a rigid vaccinate-or-test mandate with a deadline of Sept.19. The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) finally released guidance on the new mandate on Sept. 22, two days after the deadline for compliance.
The current mandate requires school personnel to be vaccinated or to submit to weekly testing. According to the updated guidance, schools are encouraged but not required to provide testing, and they may use federal pandemic relief funds to pay for testing programs. Numerous school officials have said that the new mandate is adding to the already large workload of mandate compliance, as they now have to manage testing programs for teachers who choose not to get vaccinated. Outside testing options may be limited for schools in rural areas.
Schools across the state have been loudly critical of the Pritzker Administration’s continual stream of Executive Orders regarding education, which have effectively stripped much of the decision-making power from local school boards and the families that the boards answer directly to.
During the summer, the Pritzker Administration had briefly reversed course, saying that school districts and school boards would make decisions for the schools within their districts. Within just a few weeks, the Governor flipped his position back with a new Executive Order taking decision-making authority on issues such as masking and safety rules out of the hands of schools.
Recently, dozens of school administrators jointly penned an op-ed critical of the Governor’s approach, describing it as “an incremental dismantling of local control in public education.” They noted that the “top-down decisions” appear to be a “continuation of the pattern of higher officials substituting their judgments for those of local school boards.”
You can read the full op-ed here.