SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Governor JB Pritzker has officially signed legislation giving vaccinated public school teachers and staff members paid time off if they contract COVID-19.

Pritzker signed House Bill 1167, known as the Covid Wage and Benefits Protection Bil, into law Tuesday at the Illinois State Capitol.

“If an employee’s child gets sick or has to isolate and quarantine they have one less thing to worry about,” Pritzker said.

The bill was a compromise piece of legislation born from the Chicago Teachers Union walkout in January.

School staff who are fully vaccinated will now be paid for Covid sick days. Sick days used for the virus earlier in the school year will be returned, as well.

Downstate O’Fallon, Illinois paraprofessional Angela Bulger says she contacted coronavirus in January. Bulger’s health worsened when her 7-year-old daughter also became covid-stricken.

“Since I started my job, I had to miss 8 days,” Bulger said. “I had to miss work to be at home with her.”

Naperville Central Social Studies teacher Rob Lugai says educators have paid a steep price.  

“I have colleagues who were out for 10 days, 20 days or longer due to an exposure, multiple exposures and/or testing positive for Covid-19,” Lugai said.  

The paid time off can also be used if an employees’ student needs to stay home due to COVID-19.

“They’ve played by the rules, done everything that was recommended and they shouldn’t lose sick days and pay for doing the right thing,” State Senator Don Harmon (D –39) said.

Pritzker vetoed an earlier version of the bill because it didn’t require teachers and staff to be fully vaccinated.

The bill was largely passed on party lines in the House, and some Democrats joined Republicans in the Senate to vote against the measure.

The vaccination requirement was the main reason many Republicans opposed the bill, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Those teachers and staff members with religious or health vaccine exemptions would still qualify.

The International Federation of Teachers, the Illinois Education Association, and unions strongly support the measure. 

“We advocated tirelessly for this legislative victory over many months,” the Chicago Teacher’s Union says, “with our partners in the IFT and the IEA, and the voices of rank & file educators played a central part in the effort.