IHSA to boycott legislative hearing set for Friday in Chicago

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A legislative hearing set for later this week on Illinois High School Association operations won’t have a key player: the high-school sports governing body itself.

IHSA officials announced Monday they plan to “have no official presence” at the House Elementary & Secondary Education Committee hearing set for 4 p.m. Friday at South Shore High School because they’ve been “informed that the IHSA will be unable to testify or call witnesses during the hearing.”

In a news release posted on the association’s website, IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman said, “We plan to let the 700-plus IHSA supporters who have voted online in opposition of these hearings and the 25 pages of testimony they submitted on our behalf speak for us in absentia on Friday.”

A House resolution sponsored by state Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, D-Aurora,and approved in the spring session called for hearings into IHSA operations. The first hearing in May sparked some heated exchanges between some lawmakers and IHSA supporters. A hearing set for July was canceled days beforehand.

As a private, not-for-profit entity, the IHSA doesn’t have to disclose details about its sponsorship deals, pension recipients and other financial operations — even though 80 percent of its members are taxpayer-funded public high schools. The Better Government Association recently sued the association, claiming it should be subject to state open-records law because it “performs a governmental function” and generates income “from events involving predominantly public schools.”

The filing of the BGA case followed a series of Chicago Sun-Times reports detailing how the IHSA has seen its costs for salaries and benefits rise as revenues and profits have fallen at its marquee event, the state boys basketball tournament. More than a quarter of the association’s 25 employees get more than $110,000 a year in salary and benefits.

Legislators could not immediately be reached for comment about whether Friday’s hearing would continue as planned. The event was still posted on the General Assembly’s website.

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