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Opinion

EYE ON ILLINOIS: School rules need real teeth or districts face parental uprising

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker has a problem with only one solution.

Shortly after the Illinois State Board of Education released health and safety guidelines for reopening classrooms in August, a Yorkville school objected.

Parkview Christian Academy, a private K-12, won’t require staff members or students to wear masks, in direct defiance of the governor, ISBE and Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines. Tom DeVore, the school’s pro bono lawyer, said the guidance lacks consequences for schools that don’t comply.

“There’s no legislative authority and they can’t do it,” DeVore said. “That’s the message.”

DeVore hinted Parkview won’t be alone in its stance. Social media is rich with parents hoping their schools, public and private, resist the broad guidelines in favor of local policies. Masks aren’t the only sticking point, but they’re a simply understood element of the “you can’t make me” attitude Pritzker alone won’t overcome.

A recent Shaw Media reader survey drew responses from parents vowing to homeschool instead of forcing their kids to wear masks. Others will comply if it’s the only way to have in-person learning. I’m adamant about masks in classrooms, so we’d consider pulling kids if the rules aren’t sufficiently strict.

If the administration wants every school in Illinois to follow the plan, Pritzker must immediately call lawmakers to Springfield for a special session to both codify the plan in legislation and enact penalties for noncompliance. That alone would remove doubt.

This situation calls to mind the May meeting of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, during which Pritzker rescinded the filing of emergency public health rules about business operation once it became clear the debate and vote would be deeply harmful to the ongoing cause of public health.

If Pritzker lacks the votes to formalize the rules, the plan falls apart and each district will have to clean up the mess. If that’s the best option, there at least should be a process for submitting local plans for ISBE approval. Absent either, we’re weeks away from parental uprising.

CLARIFICATION: On Saturday, writing about planning to vote safely and securely, I included this sentence about mail-in ballots: “You can authorize another person to turn in your ballot, but for 55 cents your postal carrier can make it part of their appointed rounds.”

Reader Maureen Keane responded: “Please note that in Illinois, ballots are sent with a prepaid postage return envelope, so there is no cost to the voter to send their ballot through the mail. The statement above may give potential voters the impression that they have to pay to send in their vote.”

She’s totally correct. The postal service isn’t free, but voting by mail comes at no additional cost to the voter. Thanks, Maureen!

• Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.

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