ILLINOIS – Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) President Dan Montgomery issued the following statement today after Governor JB Pritzker announced that he will extend the state’s COVID disaster proclamation but will remove the “vaccine or test” mandate for Illinois K-12 schools.
“We applaud the governor for extending the disaster proclamation to ensure that appropriate measures can be taken to address the evolving dynamics of the pandemic. We also agree with him that it is time to eliminate the “vaccine or test” mandate in our schools.
“At the time the mandate was issued in September 2021, it was essential to protect students, teachers, school staff, and communities. Most adults had not yet had the opportunity to be vaccinated, and younger children were not approved to receive the vaccine. The governor recognized the importance of resuming in-person learning; the safest way to do so was to require vaccination or regular testing of the adults in our schools.
“Fast forward to today. Our union is proud to say that more than 90 percent of our members are fully vaccinated. They understand that vaccination is essential to keeping their students, families, and communities safe. We expect that the vast majority of our members will get the new Omicron booster as well, which will bolster their protection against the variant that is responsible for 86 percent of current COVID cases in Illinois. And, as vaccination rates among school children remain too low – especially among the elementary age populations – the state must redouble its efforts to vaccinate kids. That will be our best defense against wintertime outbreaks in schools.
“Of course, we know that vaccination does not eliminate the possibility of infection. When it occurs, we strongly believe that CDC-recommended measures must be taken to avoid spreading the virus. We thank Governor Pritzker for signing the COVID sick leave bill into law earlier this year to ensure that educators and school staff may take necessary time off work without loss of pay or sick time in the event they get COVID. The governor’s newest emergency proclamation does not impact that law.
“Throughout the pandemic, Governor Pritzker has made the tough decisions necessary to keep all Illinoisans healthy and safe. By extending the emergency proclamation and eliminating the “vaccine or test” mandate, he is continuing to prioritize safety while ensuring our state adapts to changing circumstances and continues down the road to recovery.”