The IHSA finally has to answer some questions

As we speak, Director Marty Hickman and his IHSA board compatriots are finally facing the music in the form a Springfield hearing solicited by Aurora State Rep Linda Chapa LaVia. And all I can say is it’s about time!

But this gathering almost didn’t happen because virtually every Republican, from the committee room to the House floor, voted against it. ihsa

C’mon! I thought being a Republican meant something more than simply not being a Democrat. Aren’t Republicans always the first to issue the call for accountability? Don’t Republicans set themselves apart by their obvious disdain for as much a one misspent tax dollar?

But suddenly none of that applies to the IHSA? Really?

So let’s take a look at the facts:

  • As a private non-profit organization the IHSA shields themselves from scrutiny, despite 80 percent of their revenue coming directly from Illinois taxpayers.
  • Seventeen individuals received $591,000 in IHSA pension benefits last year and they refuse to provide any names or explain the math.
  • The IHSA paid out $3.1 million in salaries and benefits during the last school year which, according to the IRS, is a 21 percent more than the previous year. They refuse to explain the increase.
  • They refuse to disclose the details of sponsorship contracts despite the fact they’re making money off a public product – your children!
  • The IHSA often makes class bracket decisions and levies sanctions based more on quashing member school dissent than leveling the playing field. And their decisions are final.
  • They bar taxpayers from their meetings.

We’ve got a complete lack of oversight, we’ve got the absence of any kind of transparency, we’ve got tax dollars going “wherever,” and we’ve got the closest thing to absolute power I’ve seen in a long time. So this certainly seems like a tailor made cause for those conservative Springfield folks, but instead of taking to the streets, they’re suddenly silent.


11 thoughts on “The IHSA finally has to answer some questions

  1. Gee, Jeff, why bother w/ legislative hearings? Since they’ve already been found guilty, why don’t we just jump straight to the sentencing phase? I’m not a big fan of the IHSA, but how can anybody think turning this into a state government run organization is going to make it any better? Bloomington’s got problems, but Springfield’s got a lot more. Heck, Springfield’s even worse than D.C. Does anybody really think letting the legislature get involved in those contracts is going to get more money to the schools? All it will do is give the legislators a chance to get involved so their buddies get the contracts. Of course that’s just upholding a grand Illinois tradition, right?

    • BTW, in the interests of transparency and accountability, how much are these hearings going to cost the taxpayer?

  2. Jeff,

    Yikes! Where did I say there should be a government takeover of the IHSA? What I did say is this:

    1. There needs to be elected official government oversight here. Much like there is with the the Tollway. It’s not a perfect proposition, but it’s better than what we have not.

    2. They should be subject to audits just like any other agencies that primarily depend upon tax dollars.

    3. Their decision should be subject to some sort of appeal.

    4. Sponsorship money should minimally be shared with the schools not to pad pensions.

    5. Their meetings should be open to the public, who are probably too lazy to attend, but they should have the option..

    6. It should not be implicitly mandatory for Illinois schools to join the IHSA as it is now.

    No take over – just oversight!


    • Jeff, I read the resolution. Although Linda NOW is claiming she’s not interested in the ISBE taking over, it is mentioned in the resolution that she wrote and the legislature passed. It sure sounded to me that that’s where this is headed. There is oversight of the IHSA — the principals and superintendents of all the member schools elect a board of directors from among them to provide that oversight. These people all were in turn hired by local elected school boards, who oversee THEM. Should more of the sponsorship money go to the schools, perhaps, but it’s not being used to “pad” pensions, it’s being used to pay for previously agreed upon pensions, after the IHSA already did the reform to move away from defined benefit plans. They’re keeping their word to their employees. Besides, where does the Illinois Legislature get off judging anyone else’s treatment of their pensions, when the legislature has failed so miserably in this regard? As for schools not joining the IHSA, there has to be some organizing body, be it IHSA, ISBE, Illinois Legislature, etc. that the schools all answer to in order to keep things fair and organized. Can the schools choose to not be regulated by the ISBE? Of course not. There should be appeals, and there is. The IHSA board has overturned the staff’s decisions on many occasions, but even in the law there’s always a final level, right? Where should the appeals go to? Legislature? Governor? Courts (but haven’t there been court cases appealing IHSA decisions already?)? As for your assertions about audits, I agree there should be, and I believe there are. Open meetings — I agree completely they should be, didn’t know they weren’t, but I’ve never tried to go. Tax dollars — I thought there was all this money from sponsorships, etc.? Wasn’t that a big thrust of all this — capturing those dollars from state tournaments, sponsorships, etc., etc., which is the IHSA’s primary source of income? I don’t believe the IHSA relies on tax dollars.

  3. And Jeff,

    Remember, my real quandary is why isn’t this a conservative cause? I truly don’t get it.


    • Jeff, I’m still trying to decide how much of this is a real cause at all, and how much is political theater. There’s always an element of that in anything in Springfield.

  4. Jeff,

    The problem is, because they’re not transparent we can’t tell exactly what’s financially what, but the vast bulk of the IHSA’s funding comes directly from the membership dues and other fees the 780 predominantly PUBLIC schools fork over to them. And where do public schools get that money? From your and my property taxes!

    You’re right there has to be some organizing body, but the IHSA is one of the worst on the planet.

    I’ve spoken with Ms. Chapa LaVia today and will write more on this tomorrow, but many interesting things came out of today’s hearing.

    Just wait till the next one in Chicago!


    • Hyperbole much, Jeff? “one of the worst on the planet”? That list would include the Illinois legislature, Illinois governors, etc. See, I can go hyperbolic too! Seriously though, there seems to be a massive conspiracy at work here. The IHSA says the schools DON’T pay dues and fees. The school administrators I’ve talked to say they don’t. The school budgets I’ve gone thru on-line don’t show any payments to the IHSA. They must all be hiding it somewhere (which is very possible). So in addition to the IHSA, Linda needs to call in the superintendents of every district in the state and get to the bottom of this.

      • Jeff,

        First, please read any of the plethora of article on this topic and they will cite that the bulk of IHSA funding comes from the membership fees paid directly by the schools. Even the IHSA wouldn’t deny that.

        And yes! They are one of the worst! Though I don’t put much stock in most newspaper editors, simply mention the IHSA in front of one of them and these normally mild-mannered folk who insist upon balance will go nuts.

        The IHSA is far worse the NCAA, any of the club sports outfits around here (and they’re pretty bad, worse that the tollway, worse than your homeowners association, worse that Homeland Security, and worse that the TSA.

        And the reason they’ve gotten so bad is because they fly just under the radar and rule with an iron fist. They are amazing at striking fear into the hearts of those who would take them.

        Just gauge Marty Hickman’s recent and completely over the top reaction to the prospect of being asked a few simple questions. You’d a thunk someone kidnapped his dog.

        I’m standing by what I wrote on this one.


  5. I know the articles have SAID the IHSA gets all that money from its members, but I’m not sure that it’s true. The IPA is not nearly the neutral observer they’d like you to think. You accuse the IHSA of ruling w/ an iron fist — so does the IPA. Dare to stand up to them and they go after you every chance they get. You know that. That’s a big part of why they’re so big on this; the IHSA tried to tell them no. As for the “IHSA wouldn’t deny that”, you’re wrong, they already have. From their website:

    Rep. Chapa LaVia: “They may not call it membership, they may call it assessments and every school district pays a certain amount of money to be a part of the IHSA” (Video 3, :12)
    No IHSA member school pays any type of member fee, assessment or otherwise to be a member of the Association. Nor do they pay entry fees to participate in any state tournament series. In the IHSA Music State Series, participating schools pay the host schools directly to help cover the cost of adjudicator fees for the event. The IHSA also produces tourism dollars all over the state as individuals attend Regional, Sectional, Super-Sectional and State Final tournaments at various locations.

    Hickman: “We returned over $2.7 million dollars to our member schools last year. Localizing it for Representative Chapa LaVia, East Aurora High School has hosted an IHSA Boys Basketball Sectional three of the past four years and received $24,502 dollars from the IHSA through its host guarantee and share of gate receipts. That amount doesn’t include any additional revenue the school made on concessions and programs.”

    As for who’s telling the truth and who isn’t, I really don’t know. I’m not sure that ANY of the parties involved (Legislature, IPA, IHSA) inspire much in the way of trust. And I’m not sure that these hearings are going to do anything in the long run but spend more of our money and give the politicians more time in the press, and give the IPA more chances to bash the IHSA. Maybe it couldn’t be worse than the IHSA, but if it ends up as any kind of state agency, it won’t get better. It may be a different bad, but it’ll still be bad.

    You’re standing and have already made up your mind, I’m standing and waiting to hopefully find out the truth but not sure I will.

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