The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) announced today that it will have no official presence at Friday’s Elementary & Secondary Education Committee hearing. The notice came via a video announcement to member schools from Executive Director Marty Hickman on Monday after he was informed that the IHSA will be unable to testify or call witnesses during the hearing.
“No one with a sense of fairness would schedule a meeting like this and there is no reason for IHSA supporters to waste their time and money to attend,” said Hickman. “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.”
The timing of the hearing, which is scheduled for Friday, October 3 at 4:00 p.m. at South Shore High School in Chicago, has drawn the ire of IHSA member schools, media like the Chicago Sun-Times
, as well as committee member Barbara Wheeler
. In a press release last week, Wheeler called the timing of the hearing “political shenanigans
”, pointing out that it is scheduled for a time that will make it difficult for IHSA supporters to attend.
In the video statement, Hickman went on to say “the process used by Representative Chapa LaVia is counter to every principle of fundamental fairness high school students learn when they participate in the interscholastic programs at their school. This process is like teaching students that you can silence your critics by setting up rules that don’t let them have a voice.”
The committee revealed Monday that it will call four witnesses during the hearing, all which appear to be related to catastrophic injuries in high school sports. Last October, the IHSA worked with State Representative Will Davis and Illinois State Senator Napolean Harris on “Rocky’s Law”, which requires high schools in Illinois to provide minimum catastrophic insurance coverage to student-athletes. The IHSA facilitated coverage options for schools and monitored member school compliance with the law. The IHSA has independently provided catastrophic insurance coverage for student-athletes competing in postseason IHSA State Series events for several decades.
“It’s disappointing to see how the subject matter in these hearings has changed yet again,” said Wauconda High School Principal and IHSA Board President Dan Klett. “In April, these hearings were supposedly called because of scholastic bowl issues and questions about contracts. Then the topic of the hearings changed to a discussion about tournament profit sharing. At each turn the IHSA has had answers and support, so now the topic shifts to catastrophic injuries. There seems to be no purpose to these hearings other than fishing for individuals with grudges against the IHSA.”
“It appears that certain members of the committee plan only to provide an audience to individuals who have ever had an axe to grind with the IHSA,” said East Peoria Principal and IHSA Board Vice-President Chuck Nagel. “It makes you wonder how these tax dollars could have been better spent. Like my colleagues around the state, I will be in school on Friday afternoon facing real issues and doing my part to help prepare our young people to be successful citizens, something the IHSA has been doing for over 100 years.”
The IHSA has been told that they will be allowed to call witnesses at an unscheduled third hearing.