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Illinois House votes to hold IHSA hearings

1 year, 1 month ago by

High School Association to respond to questions of accountability and transparency

On Monday, the Illinois General Assembly voted to pass House Resolution 895 by a 55-51 vote, which calls for the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) to meet with the Education Committee for hearings.

“We felt unfairly targeted with the way this all came about,” said IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman. “But what’s done is done. The hearings are going to happen, so our mindset now is the sooner the better. We want to show the Representatives how we operate and clear up any misconceptions they may have.”

During her time on the floor introducing the resolution for a vote on April 7, Representative Chapa LaVia, who authored the Resolution, cited several reasons that fellow representatives should vote in favor of the hearings. She has cited “accountability” and “transparency” in several publications as key reasons as well.

“The portion of the resolution that calls for the ISBE to take over the IHSA put us all on the defensive initially,” said Wauconda High School Principal and IHSA Board President Dan Klett. “The Representative has publically stated that is no longer her intention, which has brought some comfort to this process.”

Klett continued, “Our Board is charged with the oversight of the IHSA and many of the Association’s operations that have been called into question. For the sake of our member schools, the representatives of the General Assembly and the general public, we felt it was important to begin this process immediately. Thus, I have asked Dr. Hickman and his staff to address Representative Chapa LaVia’s concerns she expressed on the floor to the General Assembly. We hope this can be an amicable first step in this process and look forward to discussing this in greater detail.”

House Resolution 895 encourages the House Elementary and Secondary Education to hold hearings on the IHSA’s administration and funding of high school sports, the safety of high school athletes, the costs and income associated with the administration of high school sports and to further examine the issues of transparency and accountability in relation to high school athletic and academic programs in Illinois.

House Resolution 895 is sponsored by state Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, a Democrat from Aurora.

“This legislation is about demanding transparency and accountability from an organization that oversees the health, safety and educational development of thousands of Illinois students,” said LaVia.

“Citizens throughout Illinois have been calling for more transparency in government. With the General Assembly once again facing difficult budget decisions, its reasonable for the taxpayers of this state to know how the IHSA is spending the funds it is bringing in. I applaud the Illinois Press Association for bringing this to my attention.”

Dennis DeRossett, executive director of the Illinois Press Association, said the following — “We thank Representative Chapa LaVia for introducing this resolution.  The IHSA is presently subject to almost no accountability or oversight; they claim to be exempt from both the Freedom of Information Act and Open Meetings Act, and they argue that they alone should control any revenue that is ultimately derived from taxpayer-funded sporting events.”

He said the IHSA is clearly profiting directly off of public, taxpayer-funded events.

“It should be public knowledge how much revenue is being generated by these events and other exclusive arrangements, along with what percentage or amount of that revenue is being remitted back to local school districts,” DeRossett said.

An earlier dispute between the IPA and the IHSA resulted in litigation in 2008. After the IPA, in light of renewed negotiations, withdrew its motion for a preliminary injunction against the IHSA, the IHSA denied field access to photographers from four newspapers during the state high school football championship. The IHSA also improperly filed a countersuit against the IPA without leave from the court.

“Kudos to LaVia,” echoed Dennis Lyle, President and CEO of the Illinois Broadcasters Association. “There exists today just too much confusion with both the public and those businesses associated with high school sports with respect to the IHSA’s role and limitations when it comes to high school athletics. The taxpayers of Illinois are the rightful owners of public high school athletics, just as they are of the gymnasiums and athletic fields where high school sports are played. LaVia’s resolution simply sets the stage for seeking clarity to the blurred lines that clearly exist today in regards to the IHSA and high school athletics.”

Sandy Macfarland, owner of the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin and chairman of the government relations committee for the Illinois Press Association, said he sees a need for the resolution. 

“To reiterate, this is only a resolution, not a substantive piece of legislation. It’s non-binding. Like state Rep. Chapa LaVia, we are anxious to see what information is learned at these hearings. I think it’s time we have a discussion concerning the financial and public policy implications of continuing to blindly outsource a profitable and easily sold product — in this case, high school sports, to a seemingly unaccountable third-party. Only after these hearings, based on what is learned, or perhaps not learned, do we think the General Assembly ought to initiate legislation.”

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