Naperville Central teacher aids in signing of house bill granting teachers paid COVID-19 sick leave


Courtesy of Rob Lugiai

Social studies Rob Lugiai helped pass House Bill 1167, which was signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker on April 5.

Jeremy Zhao, Community Editor & Copy Editor

Naperville Central social studies teacher Rob Lugiai helped pass House Bill 1167, a bill which guarantees fully vaccinated public school employees paid administrative leave if they contract COVID-19. The bill was signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker on April 5, 2022.

Lugiai is a grassroots political activist (GPA) for his local chapter of the Illinois Education Association, the Naperville Unit Education Association (NUEA). In September 2021, Lugiai saw a problem with sick days. 

“We got together a number of teachers and said, we’ve been using a lot of our sick days,” Lugiai said. “A number of teachers, particularly younger teachers, were burning through their sick days.” 

Lugiai met with other GPAs in the local area and informed Janet Yang Rohr, State Rep. of Illinois’ 41st district, which includes parts of Naperville. 

“Teachers and paraprofessionals met with me and just talked to me about some problems they were facing,” Yang Rohr said. “Our teachers were basically being asked to be off school property to take their sick leave even when they weren’t sick.” 

Following CDC guidelines, some school districts required teachers to quarantine up to 10 days after a close contact. Some school districts, like Naperville 203, required negative PCR tests before returning to work. This meant teachers had to use “three of their own sick days” just to wait for PCR results, Yang Rohr said. 

Lugiai said that while he has sick days that roll over to the next year, younger teachers don’t have that accumulation. For non-tenured teachers like Lugiai’s husband, COVID took sick days away from other illnesses.

The first bill proposed to Pritzker applied to everyone, regardless of vaccination status. 

“The governor vetoed that,” Lugiai said. “His thought was that if you took the responsible action of getting vaccinated and still either got sick or had to take care of a family member, then you should be rewarded with getting back some of those sick days.” 

Yang Rohr said that the vast majority of Illinois teachers will benefit, as “95% of teachers” are vaccinated. 

The bill is retroactive to the beginning of the school year, meaning that teachers like Lugiai who had to use sick days for COVID-19 will get those sick days back. Naperville 203 will “recode those [COVID] days to be administrative days,” Yang Rohr said. 

Lugiai said he was satisfied with the bill.

“I think it’s going to help a number of educators,” he said. “It’s going to help paraprofessionals, bus drivers, secretaries, people who aren’t full-time certified staff members.” 

Yang Rohr said she encourages people to talk to her about issues they’re facing. 

“Anyone can reach out,” she said. “In my office every single month, we do a coffee and conversation. People always call or email me, and we try to respond to every single inquiry that comes in. It’s important to reach out because I’m trying to address the needs of the community.”