Second IHSA hearing adds up to zilch

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Just five of the 14 members of the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee were in attendance Friday at the group’s second hearing on the Illinois High School Association’s oversight of high school sports.

The IHSA did not have a representative at the hearing, held at South Shore. The organization announced Monday it was boycotting the meeting after being informed by the legislators that it would be unable to testify or call witnesses.

With less than half the committee and no IHSA representative on hand, state Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, D-Aurora, the committee’s chairperson, shifted the meeting’s focus to student-athlete safety issues.

The legislators debated the inconvenient timing of the hearing — held Friday afternoon — and questioned the IHSA in between testimony from four witnesses about insurance difficulties for catastrophically injured high school athletes. One witness was also called to discuss a recent scholastic bowl controversy.

State Rep. Fred Crespo, D-Streamwood, said he went into the first hearing with an open mind but the IHSA’s “defensive tone made him wonder if they had something to hide.”

State Rep. Ken Dunkin, D-Chicago, summed up the Democratic side of the committee’s argument well: “We want a better situation (with the IHSA) and I don’t know what that is exactly. At some point the IHSA is going to have to be accountable for certain questions.”

Chapa LaVia said the legislators were not trying to take over the IHSA, they only wanted it to become more transparent.

“We will be having a third hearing, probably in the middle of the state,” Chapa LaVia said. “We will be working with the IHSA to get some dates from them to see which would be good. It will probably be a hearing that lasts all day long.”

According to Chapa LaVia the IHSA will be allowed to call witnesses at the third hearing.

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