No witnesses allowed for IHSA at hearing

BLOOMINGTON — The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) has learned that it will not be allowed to call witnesses at its July 8 hearing with the Illinois General Assembly’s Elementary & Secondary Education Committee, scheduled to begin at noon in room C600 of the Bilandic building in Chicago.

“The IHSA will not be allowed to call witnesses,” reads an email from House Democratic Research/Appropriations Staff member James O’Brien regarding the hearing. “The format will be the same as last time.”

The IHSA was not permitted to call witnesses at the first hearing, held on May 20 in Springfield. The Education Committee has yet to share what the subject of the hearing will be and if it will call any witnesses.

“It’s a disappointing development to say the least,” said IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman. “It seems to go against the very nature of a hearing like this. We have a respected group of high school administrators, individuals with diverse IHSA experiences, who want the opportunity to speak to the committee.”

Hickman noted that the IHSA had planned to call “10 to 15” witnesses to testify on the IHSA’s behalf, including Edwardsville High School Superintendent Ed Hightower, Proviso West High School Athletic Director and former Director of CPS Athletic Administration Calvin Davis, Hillcrest High School Principal Renee Sims, Hoffman Estates High School Athletic Director Steve Lacni, LaSalle-Peru High School Athletic Director and former Chicago Bear/Northwestern University football standout D’Wayne Bates and Chicago Catholic League Hall of Fame honoree Jim Prunty, who retired as the Athletic Director at St. Ignatius in May.

“I really would like to find out the true reason why many of us are here today,” said State Representative Dan Brady after questioning individuals from the Illinois Press Association (IPA) and Illinois Broadcasters Association (IBA) during the first hearing on May 20.

The IPA and IBA helped write the House Resolution for State Representative Linda Chapa LaVia and were called to testify at the May 20 hearing, where their comments focused on the IHSA’s broadcast rights for its postseason contests. The Chicago Sun-Times, which owns an Illinois high school webstreaming website, contributed to Brady’s concerns of ulterior agendas.After receiving advance notice of the hearing from Representative Chapa LaVia, the paper produced a series of stories on the IHSA’s finances, which many committee members pulled questions from directly during the hearing. The crux of the series was an erroneous report that IHSA salaries and benefits had increased 21 percent in one calendar year.

The IHSA’s independent auditing firm confirmed that the actual increase was closer to 3 percent. The newspaper failed to take into consideration an accounting change, despite receiving communications from Hickman about the modification.

“I am all for meaningful discussion to address the concerns that our member schools bring forward,” said Hickman. “But it would be a disservice to the hundreds of high school administrators and coaches who plan to attend on July 8, as well as all taxpayers, if we are resuming these hearings to address inaccurate media reports, while our own witnesses are left voiceless.”