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Bill To Expand Parental Leave For Teachers, School Workers Passes State Senate

Teachers and other school workers would receive 30 days of paid sick leave after becoming parents under legislation that passed the Illinois Senate on Wednesday. The bill follows an Illinois Supreme Court ruling last year that limited how new mothers can use maternal leave.

The bill would allow new parents to use paid sick leave after childbirth, fostering, or adoption.

State Sen. Sara Feigenholtz, D-Chicago, an adoptee herself, sponsored the legislation in the Senate. She said the legislation has been in the works for multiple years, even before the Supreme Court ruling.

"We need time to bond," said Feigenholtz. "We know that the long-term mental and physical and economic benefits for families are much better when that bonding occurs."

The bill would also remove the requirement that sick leave days related to becoming a new parent have to be taken consecutively.

"How teachers and school employees use their earned time is their own business," said Feigenholtz. "They should be able to decide, as long as it's time earned."

Feigenholtz said legislation needs to be more flexible on the matter.

"It shouldn't be dependent on what sex that parent is, or whether or not it's they're forming their family by a physical act of giving birth," said Feigenholtz. "This is the 21st century."

She noted families look very different compared to when the current law was put into place.

"Our laws should fit people's lives," said Feigenholtz. "Our job is to meet the needs of today's families and today's Illinois residents, and that's what this bill does."

Feigenholtz said she was not aware of opposition to the bill. The only group that filed in opposition to the bill was the Illinois Association of School Boards.

"Support of this legislation would take away the ability of employers and employees bargaining over this issue at a local level," said Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington.

Barickman voted against the bill, while Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, did not vote on the legislation. In the House vote on the bill last month, Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, voted in favor of the bill, as did Rep. Dan Caulkins, R-Decatur.

Where Peoria legislators are concerned, Sen. Sally Turner, R-Beason, and Sen. Win Stoller, R-Peoria, both voted "no." Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria, voted in favor of the legislation. In the House vote, Reps. Ryan Spain, R-Peoria, Keith Sommer, R-Morton, and Mark Luft, R-Pekin all voted "yes" on the bill, while Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, D-Peoria, was not present for the vote.

The bill would not apply to Chicago Public Schools.

After making it out of the Senate Labor Committee on a unanimous vote and passing 43-10 on the Senate floor, the bill faces a concurrence vote in the House before heading to Gov. JB Pritzker for his potential signature.

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