NEWS

Illinois Press Association and Illinois Broadcasters Association support House Resolution 985

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

 A newly introduced resolution moving through the Illinois legislature seeks to examine the practices of the Illinois High School Association (IHSA). House Resolution 985 encourages the House Elementary and Secondary Education to hold hearings on the IHSA’s administration and funding of high school sports, the safety of high school athletes, the costs and income associated with the administration of high school sports and to further examine the issues of transparency and accountability in relation to high school athletic and academic programs in Illinois. House Resolution 985 is sponsored by Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora).

“This legislation is about demanding transparency and accountability from an organization that oversees the health, safety and educational development of thousands of Illinois students,” said state Rep. Chapa LaVia. “Citizens throughout Illinois have been calling for more transparency in government. With the General Assembly once again facing difficult budget decisions, its reasonable for the taxpayers of this state to know how the IHSA is spending the funds it is bringing in. I applaud the Illinois Press Association for bringing this to my attention.”

Dennis DeRossett, executive director of the Illinois Press Association, said “We thank Representative Chapa LaVia for introducing this resolution. The IHSA is presently subject to almost no accountability or oversight; they claim to be exempt from both the Freedom of Information Act and Open Meetings Act, and they argue that they alone should control any revenue that is ultimately derived from taxpayer funded sporting events.”

He said the IHSA is clearly profiting directly off of public, taxpayer funded events. “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.”

An earlier dispute between the IPA and the IHSA resulted in litigation in 2008. After the IPA, in light of renewed negotiations, withdrew its motion for a preliminary injunction against the IHSA, the IHSA took the extraordinary step of denying field access to photographers from four newspapers during the state high school football championship. The IHSA also improperly filed a countersuit against the IPA without leave from the court.

“Kudos to Representative Chapa LaVia,” echoed Dennis Lyle, President and CEO of the Illinois Broadcasters Association. “There exists today just too much confusion with both the public and those businesses associated with high school sports with respect to the IHSA’s role and limitations when it comes to high school athletics. The taxpayers of Illinois are the rightful owners of public high school athletics, just as they are of the gymnasiums and athletic fields where high school sports are played. Representative Chapa LaVia’s resolution simply sets the stage for seeking clarity to the blurred lines that clearly exist today in regards to the IHSA and high school athletics.”

Sandy Macfarland, owner of the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin and chairman of the government relations committee for the Illinois Press Association, said he sees a need for the resolution. “To reiterate, this is only a resolution, not a substantive piece of legislation. It’s non-binding. Like Rep. Chapa LaVia, we are anxious to see what information is learned at these hearings. I think it’s time we have a discussion concerning the financial and public policy implications of continuing to blindly outsource a profitable and easily sold product – in this case, high school sports, to a seemingly unaccountable third-party. Only after these hearings, based on what is learned, or perhaps not learned, do we think the General Assembly ought to initiate legislation.”

Located in Springfield, the Illinois Press Association is one of the largest state newspaper associations in the U.S. with nearly 500 daily and weekly newspaper members.

The Illinois Broadcasters Association is the leading advocate for the broadcast industry in Illinois. IBA is engaged in shaping public policy to create a positive legislate and regulatory environment for its membership. In addition, the Association assists it membership in continuing education, legal support services, compliance issues and public service outreach.