House OKs looking into possible state takeover of IHSA

Written By ELISE DISMER Posted: 04/07/2014, 06:24pm

SPRINGFIELD— The Illinois House voted Monday to explore a potential state takeover of the Illinois High School Association despite an outcry from GOP lawmakers who argued the state had no right to be “mothering” the private organization.

House Resolution 895, which passed 55-51, encourages the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee to hold hearings on the IHSA concerning its administration and funding of high school sports, the safety of high school athletes and the feasibility of transferring IHSA duties and functions to the Illinois State Board of Education. 

State Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, D-Aurora, the panel’s chairwoman, said that whenever she asks for data from or questions of the IHSA officials in committee, she feels their answers are always “elusive.”

“We are saying to an organization, the IHSA, that’s been in existence since 1908, to come forward and to be very transparent with the questions we have and to be accountable,” Chapa LaVia said. “I know of no other department that we’ve created that has no oversight by the General Assembly.”

She listed several instances where she contended the IHSA hadn’t acted properly and ought to explain itself.

She cited the 2013 controversy in which organizers of an IHSA-sanctioned Scholastic Bowl used plagiarized questions, and then the official who discovered they were plagiarized was fired.

Chapa LaVia also brought up how the IHSA had violated the rights of disabled athletes by preventing them from participating in sporting functions, which brought a lawsuit from Attorney General Lisa Madigan. 

A spokesman for the Bloomington-based organization said Chapa Lavia’s resolution “unfairly cast the association in a negative light.”

“While we believe the hearings she proposes will be an unnecessary strain on the time and resources of both the General Assembly and the IHSA, we welcome the opportunity to clear up any misconceptions this resolution has created,” IHSA spokesman Matt Troha said.

The group found support among Republican lawmakers. 

Rep. John Cavaletto, R-Salem, who said he’s known the IHSA for 60 years, said the organization hasn’t caused any problems so it doesn’t deserve this kind of scrutiny.

“They’ve never been involved in anything that would question their judgment or integrity in what they do,” Cavaletto said. “I would say this is one of the great institutions in our state that is equal and fair to every boy and girl and school in the state of Illinois.”

Rep. David Reis, R-Willow Hill, called the resolution an attempt to bully the IHSA. 

“It’s none of our business what they’re doing,” Reis said. “There’s hundreds and hundreds and thousands of private businesses set up in this state, and we cannot be mothering around in their finances, in what they do, in their marketing plans and their contracts every time there’s something they don’t like.”

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