On August 4, 2021, Governor JB Pritzker issued Executive Order 2021-18, mandating all public and nonpublic schools in Illinois serving pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students require the indoor use of face coverings, regardless of vaccination status. A press conference held in conjunction with the filing included statements from Governor Pritzker threatening school districts with non-recognition by the Illinois State Board of Education for non-compliance with the mask mandate.
“I support local control over these issues and encourage frustrated parents, teachers, and local school board members and administrators to contact Governor Pritzker’s office opposing his latest Executive overreach,” said Rep. Tony McCombie. “It is unfair to threaten punishing schools with funding cuts for trying to do what’s best for their students.”
Following Pritzker’s threat to schools, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin sent a letter on August 4 to the State Superintendent of Education, Dr. Carmen Ayala, asking for clarification about whether she planned to follow through on the Governor’s threats to reduce or eliminate state funding through non-recognition of schools who choose to exercise local control over this issue. Durkin’s letter can be found at: repmccombie.com/eo-2021-18-letter-to-isbe/
On August 10, State Superintendent Dr. Ayala sent a response back to Leader Durkin’s inquiry touting ISBE’s regulatory authority in this regard and detailing that remediation will be attempted before due process is done for non-recognition of a district. This response letter can be found at: repmccombie.com/isbe-response-letter-eo-2021-18/
Beyond the potential funding consequences to schools, Superintendent Ayala also reminded schools that non-recognition prohibits their participation in Illinois High School Association (IHSA) and Illinois Elementary School Association (IESA) sanctioned sporting events, as well.
Some school superintendents have decried the public pressure their districts are being placed under due to public sentiment in opposition the Governor’s Executive actions. School Superintendents previously had sent a letter to Governor Pritzker expressing their desire for local control over a “one size fits all” approach in a state as diverse as Illinois.
“Illinois is a diverse state with many different circumstances and settings in these districts,” said McCombie. “While I continue to call for legislative involvement in these decisions, the reality is, under Illinois law, ONLY Governor Pritzker or Speaker Welch can call the Illinois House back into session to take action on House Resolutions 401 and 416.”
More on this developing situation and a petition residents may sign to support legislative involvement in these decisions can be found at Rep. McCombie’s legislative website at repmccombie.com.