Last Friday, Governor Pritzker announced that he has amended the vaccination mandate for PreK-16 educators and school staff; affected individuals will now have until September 19, 2021 to receive your first COVID vaccination (or to begin weekly testing). This is a two-week extension of the original deadline.
I issued this statement immediately following the governor’s action.
"We welcome today's extension from Governor Pritzker. It is an important step that will help educators and school staff work with management to comply with the vaccine mandate. To be clear, we believe that the best place for students to learn is in the classroom, and that can best be accomplished by following the science and public health guidelines and getting everyone vaccinated who can be vaccinated. We continue to work toward that goal."
As your president, I wanted to be sure that you are aware of this important news, understand the IFT’s position on the mandate, and know how your union has worked to shape it on your behalf.
First, let me be clear. The IFT (along with the Illinois Education Association) supports the vaccination mandate. With the Delta variant surging and cases in young children rising dramatically, educators and school staff have a responsibility to students and communities to get vaccinated if we are able to. As part of a layered approach to safety, vaccinations will help schools remain open for in-person learning.
But from the beginning, the IFT has demanded that our members’ voices be heard as these critical decisions are made. We continue to bargain and insist that our workplaces have proper ventilation, access to vaccines, and necessary preventive measures, including masks, social distancing, and other resources, to keep people safe.
The law requires that the impact of these decisions be bargained locally, and we have insisted that the governor make that clear. We have demanded that, for those who cannot or choose not to be vaccinated for medical, religious, a deeply held belief, or any other reason, a testing option be made available. And although the IFT strongly urges members to comply with the vaccination or testing requirement, we have insisted that those who do not cannot be terminated. The governor listened and addressed our union’s concerns in this mandate language.
By extending the deadline to comply with the vaccination mandate, Governor Pritzker has again worked with us. The two-week extension will make compliance easier for teachers and school staff, as well as give our local unions more time to bargain with employers over the impact and implementation of the mandate.
We understand it’s been a stressful start to the school year. We want to help. Please know that the safety of our members, students, and communities remains our union’s top priority. If you have questions or concerns about any COVID-related policies at your workplace, please contact your local president or IFT Field Service Director.
As always, thank you for all you do. Together, we are #IFTSTRONG.
In Safety and Solidarity,
Dan Montgomery, IFT President