OPEN LETTER: Decisions about Schools Should be Made Locally

Governor J.B. Pritzker’s latest decision to prohibit high school basketball for boys and girls is a perfect example of his do-what-I-tell-you approach rather than a Liberty-first solution.

It’s a mindset that plagues “big government” types who believe the best governance is centralized control.  The best place for decision-making impacting local communities is not in Springfield or Chicago – it’s in your community.

The ban on basketball is the latest case in point that the Governor’s edicts, orders and decrees are detached from the reality of real lives, hopes and dreams of students and parents.

This is why we are encouraging local school boards to exercise their proper role of authority over these decisions, independent of the Governor. The Governor can and will threaten, but he has no statutory authority to unilaterally cut funding to individual school districts.

Public health experts, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Council on Science and Health note that teens and younger children are among the least susceptible to the Coronavirus or COVID-19.  Their recovery rate is 99.9 percent. The National High School Association considers basketball a lower risk activity.

Our student-athletes want to play.  Parents – who are the ultimate authority over the lives and care of their children – seek only what’s best for their sons and daughters.  In order to move forward, students and parents must step up and speak up, and it’s up to local school boards to respond in a manner that fosters opportunity and sportsmanship in a healthy and safe environment. 

Do not fall prey to tactics of fear.  School sports can take necessary precautions for the coronavirus.  The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) has published guidelines that can be followed.  We also commend the IHSA for recently standing up for the lives and dreams of students, by opposing Governor Pritzker’s fall sports edict, and allowing boys and girls basketball programs to proceed with their season.  Ultimately, the final decision on playing is up to local school districts, with the input of students and parents, as it should be.

(This letter is signed by Rep. Wilhour and twelve of his colleagues in the General Assembly.)