Yesterday Governor JB Pritzker issued a statewide mandate, requiring students to wear masks in K-12 schools this fall. I, along with my colleagues in the legislature, were not included in this decision. This is the same pattern the Governor has taken for the prior 18 months of executive orders by the Governor.
I have the privilege of serving on three different education committees in the Illinois House. Never once have we had a hearing on mask mandates, the governor’s executive authority, or the best way to reopen schools this coming fall. This will be the third school year students have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. There are hundreds of elected school board members across this state who are capable and qualified to work with parents, teachers, and administrators to make the best decisions to keep their students safe and learning. A blanket statewide mandate is not the answer. I have always been an advocate for local control when it comes to education policy. Governor Pritzker should cede this issue to local school boards, who are more than capable of discerning what is necessary for schools and students.
Members of the House Republican Caucus continue to push for local control and common sense on this issue. After hearing concerns from schools and parents, yesterday, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin sent a letter to State Superintendent of Education Ayala. The letter asks for clarification on whether or not the Governor can take away state funding if a school chooses not to comply with the mask mandate. The letter also tackles the question of delivering PPE equitably to all school districts; something that the Governor publicly promised. With the mask mandate having an immediate effective date, House Republican lawmakers are eagerly awaiting a response from the Superintendent.
You can view a copy of the full letter here.
While the voices of students, parents, educators, and school boards were seemingly silenced in this unilateral decision by the Governor, there are still opportunities for you to speak up! We have created a petition where you can share your feedback on this recent mandate here: https://www.ilhousegop.org/coequal.
We have also introduced House Resolution 401, which urges the Governor, the Illinois State Board of Education, and the Illinois Department of Public Health to allow for local control by the duly elected school board members regarding decisions on COVID-19 mitigation efforts.
After this latest mandate by the Governor, it’s even clearer that we need protocols like this House Resolution encourages that would bring local control to the forefront when it comes to making decisions on COVID-19. Currently, HR401 is awaiting consideration in the Illinois House. Please contact your other local legislators and encourage them to support this measure.