Aurora lawmaker, IHSA clash over sports proposal
SPRINGFIELD -- A suburban Democrat has clashed with the Illinois High School Association over whether the state would take over its responsibilities to run a vast prep sports domain that includes everything from football to bass fishing.
While the control issue is generating concern among coaches and the IHSA, state Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, an Aurora Democrat, said transparency is what she's ultimately seeking from the nonprofit group that runs high school sports championships. The IHSA, for example, does not have to answer to state auditors or comply with open records laws.
"They are taxpayers and citizens and they want to know what's going on," Chapa LaVia said of parents and athletes.
A proposal she's filed in Springfield asks for hearings to examine the "feasibility" of turning over the IHSA's operations to the Illinois State Board of Education, among other things. But Chapa LaVia says she doesn't want state government to take over the IHSA.
"I don't want to move them under ISBE," Chapa LaVia said. "That's not my intention.
"It's just hearings. They have everybody in an uproar over hearings."
Still, the proposal has raised eyebrows among IHSA officials and local coaches.
"If that's not what she wants to do, why would she put it in the resolution?" said IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman.
The proposal awaits a vote by the House, but it doesn't carry the full weight of law and wouldn't compel anything even if lawmakers approved it.
Hickman says if Chapa LaVia had concerns about his organization, she should have come to him. He said it doesn't make sense to transfer responsibilities for sports onto the government at a time when lawmakers are considering whether to reduce school funding or keep a 2011 income tax hike to avoid cuts.
"They're underfunded now. They're understaffed now," Hickman said.
Chapa LaVia's plan has its roots with the Illinois Press Association, which wants more transparency from some IHSA contracts.
"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," Illinois Press Association Executive Director Dennis DeRossett said.
Hickman says the IHSA's financial statement and annual reports are available online.
"I don't know how much more transparent we can be," he said.
This isn't the first time lawmakers have tried to make changes to youth sports.
Last year, they approved a new law that requires most schools to carry catastrophic accident insurance policies and the sports organization to offer a group policy to schools.
A plan by Rep. Carol Sente, a Vernon Hills Democrat, to limit tackling at football practice to help prevent concussions failed.