Bailey claims Pritzker “decimated” education by moving to virtual learning

Published: Aug. 23, 2022 at 5:04 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - Sen. Darren Bailey (R-Xenia) said keeping kids in school is the first step of his education agenda in his battle against Gov. JB Pritzker. Bailey said Pritzker’s COVID-19 lockdowns “decimated” education in Illinois. Bailey challenged the governor over his COVID executive orders and the closing of schools during the worst period of the pandemic.

Now, Bailey said Illinois children suffered without in-person learning, and he will keep them in school if elected governor this fall. The Republican gubernatorial nominee also said Pritzker should apologize to students and parents for moving schools to virtual learning early into the pandemic.

Bailey argues that Illinois should provide scholarships to students in school districts that require remote or virtual learning. His campaign said Monday night that the change could allow children to have other learning options regardless of their economic status.

Data from the Illinois State Board of Education show students struggled with their English and math courses throughout the 2021 school year and younger students saw significant drops in proficiency.

“While Pritzker can more than afford to hire private tutors or pay for private schooling, many hardworking Illinois families don’t have that option,” Bailey said. “When their children fall behind, they have nowhere to turn which is shameful.”

Illinois school enrollment dropped by 3.6% during the 2021 school year. Although, ISBE noted that Illinois was on par with an average 3% drop in enrollment across the country that year.

The downstate millionaire farmer has gained strong support from members of Awake Illinois, a statewide organization fighting for parental control in schools and encouraging people to run for local school board seats. Bailey argues the “political elite” should not have the power to run schools in Illinois, even though he founded a Christian academy in Louisville.

The Pritzker campaign said Bailey’s so-called “education agenda” is a desperate attempt to cover up the fact that he has no coherent policies or plans.

“His only real agenda is regurgitating the far-right, ultra-MAGA talking points he gets from Donald Trump,” said Pritzker campaign press secretary Eliza Glezer. “From his comments downplaying the severity of COVID-19 during the height of the pandemic, to his votes against increased funding for education across the state, Bailey has proven time and time again that he doesn’t have Illinois students’ backs.”

Bailey said the Pritzker administration’s move to remote learning disproportionately impacted low-income and minority students across the state.

“I believe every student has the fundamental right to full-time, in-person education,” Bailey said. “Depriving children of in-person learning deprives them of opportunity and hope.”

Bailey stressed that he will continue to stand up and fight for the future of Illinois. However, Glezer stated that kids, parents, and educators deserve better than Bailey.

The State Board of Education approved a resolution on Sept. 7, 2021, that included $7.8 billion of federal COVID-19 relief funding to help facilitate a safe return to in-person learning for all Illinois public schools.

The Illinois Federation of Teachers and Illinois Education Association also supported the Pritzker administration’s move to virtual learning to keep students, teachers, and staff safe during the height of the pandemic.

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