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Opponents call measure union propaganda that could be taught in Illinois schools

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(The Center Square) – A measure seeking to allow high schools around Illinois to observe an annual “Workplace Readiness Week” is ready to be sent Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk.

House Bill 4417 passed the state Senate along party lines. Opponents say it will provide a platform for union propaganda without allowing the same privilege for any other viewpoints. They say it does nothing to give students the skills they need to make them ready for the workplace.

State Sen. Craig Wilcox, R-McHenry, said high schools who decide to implement a Workplace Readiness Week will be indoctrinating students.

“The week should focus on the objective of educating about workplace rights and opportunities rather than becoming a platform for specific ideological or political viewpoints,” said Wilcox.

State Sen. Michael Halpin, D-Rock Island, said the bill was labor-supported.

“This bill just sets a minimum requirement for the curriculum. Any school [that opts in to include a Workplace Readiness Week] can add on any other information they want to add when it comes to workforce training or business development,” said Halpin. “I encourage Senators that have a school district interested in teaching this information to work with them to develop that additional curriculum.”

Haplin, according to Reform for Illinois, had about $124,000 cash on hand as of March 2024. His top campaign contributors include multiple unions, including Illinois Laborers Legislative Committee, which donated over $220,000 to his campaign; North Ctrl IL Laborers Dist Council PAC, which donated over $220,000 to his campaign; Illinois Federation of Teachers COPE, which donated $170,000; and AFSCME IL Council 31 PAC, which donated over $150,000.

House Democrats amended the measure to leave it up to Illinois high schools if they want to include a “Workplace Readiness Week” as part of their curriculum. However, the bill now says if schools opt-in they have to include a certain curriculum.

Halpin said it will require schools to initiate curriculum that discusses state and federal labor laws, apprenticeship programs and opportunities in the labor workforce.

“It’s not a mandate unless the school recognizes this week officially,” said Halpin.

State Sen. Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods, voted “no” on the bill.

“While it is optional … where a school can decide whether or not to cover it, if a school chooses to cover it, it actually limits the breadth of the speech that can be presented as a part of this,” said McConchie.

The bill passed both the House and Senate and can now be sent to Gov. J.B. Pritzker for further action.