The Chicago Tribune editorial board published a scathing op-ed Wednesday, ripping Illinois Democrats over a bill that it says would punish the success the state’s private schools saw as they reopened earlier in the pandemic.
The Democrat sponsored bill, also known by teacher unions as the “Safe Schools Bill,” would require both public and private schools in the state to follow guidelines established by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) in the event of a public health emergency.
The board argued that this establishment of state-mandated metrics, which schools would have to meet before they could offer in-person learning, would make it harder for schools to reopen in the fall.
According to the board, faith-based schools across the state worked with health officials in the summer and fall of 2020 to figure out how to offer in-person learning safely, all while many public schools continued with virtual learning.
“The private school model got kids into classrooms sooner — in some cases eight months sooner — than public schools and with few major disruptions,” the board wrote, before noting that the new bill, House Bill 2789, would insert the IDPH into the operations of private schools, even outside of health emergencies.
The board further explained that the IDPH would establish the rules determining when a private school could open, and when it would be closed. It added that if the number of coronavirus cases escalates between the spring and fall, then the new rules could potentially prevent the schools from being able to open.
It then noted that teacher unions and their allies were behind efforts to pass the bill, which passed the Illinois House in April, and now heads to the state Senate.
“If passed in the Senate and signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, lawmakers and the governor would be punishing the successful private school model. They would be opening the door to more government overreach, more cumbersome regulations. That, in the end, would harm school kids and their learning,” the board wrote.
“The teacher unions and their allies are calling the bill the “Safe Schools Bill.” We’d say that’s a major misnomer. A more accurate name for the legislation? ‘How to Keep Schools Closed,'” it said.
The Chicago Teachers Union was a notorious example earlier this year of resistance to reopening schools without teachers being vaccinated before returning to in-person learning, leading to a stalemate between the unions and the school districts. The union finally reached an agreement on reopening in February and Chicago public schools opened in April for the first time in over a year, according to a local NBC affiliate.