Pritzker Signs Work-Related/Work-Based Absences Bill for High School Students Into Law

By Benjamin Cox on August 18, 2023 at 5:40am

Governor J.B. Pritzker was joined on Monday at the Illinois State Fair by members of the Illinois FFA Class of 2023 officers. Pritzker signed a new law that allows students attending work-related and work-based learning events like 4-H and FFA programs to count towards school attendance.

Pritzker says the bill advances his administration’s focus on encouraging the state’s students to pursue workforce and career development learning while in school: “These learning opportunities cultivate professional development and responsibility in our youth. Our FFA and 4-H members are living proof of that fact, and their hands-on experiences ought to count towards their education.”

2023 State FFA President Thaddeus Bergschneider of Franklin says that future FFA students will now have their lessons from FFA reflected in their student attendance record: “Students will continue to learn lessons and discipline, innovation, team work, collaboration, and leadership through the programs FFA and 4-H offer. Through these programs, they are becoming the leaders, innovators, and the workforce for agriculture, which is our state’s largest industry and to key piece for our efforts in conservation and sustainability in our nation and in our world. FFA has always taught and educated its members to become those leaders and innovators for our state’s future. Now, their attendance record will show the true value of those experiences.”

The law amends the Illinois School Code to allow students who miss traditional classroom days for events in work-based learning programs to have those events counted towards overall school attendance. The student’s parent or legal guardian are to be responsible for obtaining assignments missed while the student was participating in an eligible program.

4-H Youth Leadership Team member Naomi Dolan of Vermillion County says that 4-H and FFA instill in students the need to complete their regular school work: “Whenever I was in high school, at least my senior year, I can say confidently that I missed at least a month of school worth of conferences and things, but I was still keeping up on my schoolwork. I stayed up very late to work on my assignments, because that’s something that 4-H and FFA tells youth: ‘You have a responsibility. You need to be a part of this.’ So, you still need to do your schoolwork and still following through on your 4-H and FFA duties. Having this kind of bill and legislation making it so I can go to the school and confidently say: “I know I’m going to continue my school assignments and I’m going to stick to the responsibilities I already have here, but I’m also going to be taking the opportunity to develop myself further to being into a good future leader so that you can see my success and say that was a student at my school but also a member of a 4-H or FFA program.'”

The bill was sponsored by State Senator Doris Turner of Springfield and co-sponsored by State Representative Sonya Harper of Chicago. Both say that this piece of legislation coupled with the State of Illinois paying the dues of students in ag classrooms to be involved in FFA helps to ensure the future of the state’s largest work sector.