Two new state holidays approved: Juneteenth and Election Day. What do they mean for you?

  • A statue in Galveston, Texas, depicts a man holding the state law that made Juneteenth a state holiday in 1979.

    A statue in Galveston, Texas, depicts a man holding the state law that made Juneteenth a state holiday in 1979. Associated press, 2020

  • Legislators approved marking "Juneteenth" on June 19 every year and making Election Day 2022 a state holiday in separate bills during the final days of the legislative session. Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expected to sign both bills.

    Legislators approved marking "Juneteenth" on June 19 every year and making Election Day 2022 a state holiday in separate bills during the final days of the legislative session. Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expected to sign both bills. Jake Griffin | Staff Photographer, March 2013

 
 
Updated 6/1/2021 9:25 PM

Two new state holidays approved by Illinois lawmakers last weekend will affect mostly state employees, and students and workers at public schools, if the bills are ultimately signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

Legislators approved marking "Juneteenth" on June 19 every year, as well as making Election Day 2022 a state holiday, in separate bills during the final days of the legislative session. Pritzker is expected to sign both.

 

The bills would give state employees and school district employees the days off.

Juneteenth commemorates the day in 1865 when enslaved Black residents in Texas learned from Union soldiers that they had been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation more than two years before. Several cities, states and counties around the country have already designated the day as a holiday.

Despite reports to the contrary, the language of the bill does not allow the day off to be moved to Monday or Friday if June 19 falls on a Saturday or Sunday.

"Juneteenth will likely have less of an impact on schools than the Election Day holiday," said Tom Bertrand, executive director of the Illinois Association of School Boards. "Most school years have ended by then, so it won't affect the school calendar as much as the work calendar for those 12-month employees."

Meanwhile, Bertrand believes the Election Day holiday, which will fall on Nov. 8 next year, was specifically drafted to affect schools.

By closing schools on Election Day, local election officials can have access to "buildings with good traffic flow (and that) are ADA compliant, are pretty spacious and are generally located centrally in most communities," Illinois State Board of Elections spokesman Matt Dietrich said.

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State employees already get Election Day off, Dietrich noted.

Many school district officials have balked at using schools as election sites in recent years because of security concerns.

Critics of the holiday complain that parents who don't get the day off will have to find alternate care for their children or be forced to potentially take an unpaid day off work.

"That concern is valid," Bertrand said. "We were supportive of a different bill that would have allowed districts to create a remote learning day on Election Day."

The legislation makes only the coming general election a holiday. It sunsets at the start of 2023.

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