SPRINGFIELD -- State lawmakers Tuesday questioned the pay, pensions and practices of the Illinois High School Association during a tense hearing led by state Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, an Aurora Democrat.
Chapa LaVia has tried to raise pressure on the sports organization this year, arguing that a private group that gets a lot of public money from schools needs to be more open with lawmakers.
"(You) are all part owners of the IHSA. Because you're paying taxes, property taxes that pay for schools, public schools," Chapa LaVia said.
She equated entry fees collected during IHSA tournaments to public funding, as the public pays the entry fee and school districts pay for teams to get to venues, which are usually located in public schools.
But IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman had dozens of backers that flooded a hearing room.
"We're not a state agency, and one of the comments made during the comments on the floor seemed to indicate that we were," Hickman said.
The hearings were sparked by a Chapa LaVia proposal that included looking into whether the IHSA's duties should be taken over by the Illinois State Board of Education.
She's backed off that plan, though, and officials said doing so would be difficult.
"If these things were going to come to us it would take time, preparation, financial resources, staffing resources, and things that would have to be part of the discussion," spokeswoman Nicole Wills said.
Wills said the current resources of the state board would not be enough to take on the new responsibility.
Republicans said the hearing, which had to change rooms once because of massive crowds, was a waste of time.
"I'm embarrassed that we're asking you questions about your personnel," state Rep. Barbara Wheeler, a Crystal Lake Republican, said.
Chapa LaVia said she plans to have two more meetings on the subject, one in Chicago and one in southern Illinois.