Illinois State Rep. Calls Biracial Republican 'a Half'

Matt Vespa | April 10, 2014 | 11:31am EDT
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An Illinois State Representative engaged in a shameful game of racial politics concerning a bill that would limit the growth of charter schools.

Democrat State Representative Linda Chapa LaVia took to the floor and slammed charter schools as vehicles that would create a segregated education system in the state.

During her rant, she decided to call a biracial member of the Republican caucus a "half" (via the Chicago Tribune):

[A]s she railed against charter schools - she claimed they're becoming segregated "between the haves and the have nots" - she turned to her fellow Democrats, waved her arms and said: "Listen to me, minorities. I'm over here because we're all over on this side of the aisle, right?"

As Republicans audibly protested, she pointed to their side of the room and said: "Wait! We have a half! We have a half!"

She was apparently referring to Republican Rep. John Anthony of Morris, who is biracial.

She called him "a half."

Chapa LaVia's charter schools bill was, thankfully, defeated. Then she asked permission to address the chamber. She tried to apologize for her ugly comment. But it was an apology filled with ifs and buts.

"I apologize," she began. "But the frustrating thing is ..." contacted Rep. LaVia for a comment about the matter and she responded by saying:

"I just apologized again on the House floor for my inappropriate remarks, doesn't matter if they were misunderstood. It was still not appropriate and I deeply apologize to everyone."

Anthony also provided with a statement, saying:

"Representative Chapa LaVia has apologized twice and I take her at her word that she is regretful for her comments; although I wish she would reconsider her unrelenting efforts to dismantle charter schools in Illinois. Education is the foundation of success for every American student and we should be promoting choice and competition.

"As a black Republican, I recognize this is not the first time that race has been used in debate in a legislative forum, nor sadly is it likely to be the last. Our reaction should always be to condemn the use of race as a tool to divide Americans from each other; and instead recommit ourselves to debating public policy differences on their merits; and never on racial, ethnic, or purely partisan grounds."

Of course, LaVia has a world-famous Democrat colleague currently living in the White House who, as CNN explains, has a "white mother from Kansas and a black father from Kenya."

And, this isn't the only claim by Rep. LaVia that's currently under fire.

She had a bill to take over the state's high school sports and activities association.  It passed 55-51, prompting Illinois High School Association (IHSA) to call her out over her controversial statements on the House floor. IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman said they "felt unfairly targeted with the way this all came about...but what's done is done. The hearings are going to happen, so our mindset now is the sooner the better. We want to show the Representatives how we operate and clear up any misconceptions they may have."

Here are a few of LaVia's claims, refuted by IHSA and followed by Exec. Dir. Hickman's comment on each one:

Rep. Chapa LaVia: "Because there is plagiarism happening"
The IHSA privately contracts individuals each year to write questions for the IHSA Scholastic Bowl State Series. In the weeks leading up to the 2013 Scholastic Bowl State Finals, one of the tournament question writers accused two other question writers of plagiarism. Each year, multiple questions will face scrutiny among the group for a variety of reasons, including plagiarism. A privately contracted editor (Sister John Baricevic, Belleville) hears the arguments and makes a final determination on whether certain questions are used or not. In an attempt to avoid future accusations the IHSA has since added computer software that aids in making questions "pristine" and avoiding plagiarism.

Hickman: "Sister John Baricevic has been the IHSA Scholastic Bowl editor for nearly two decades and we stand by her and appreciate her commitment to scholastic bowl. We believe her to be a person of the utmost professionalism and integrity, and are proud to have her be a major part of this program."

Rep. Chapa LaVia: "The contracts that they (IHSA) have at all of these championships, is only their (IHSA) contracts, so the food vendors, Nike, Gatorade all of that is their (IHSA) contracts and we (General Assembly) don't have any say"

The IHSA does have contracts with several corporate sponsors who help supplement their events (Country Financial, Baden, Gatorade, Minerva Promotions, Nike Football, etc.) and offset the expenses of the state tournaments that operate at a deficit. All IHSA contracts are approved and reviewed by the IHSA Board of Directors, a group of principals from around the state who volunteer their time and resources to serve the membership. The IHSA does not have any food contracts with outside vendors, nor with food vendors inside any of the venues that host its events, nor does the IHSA set any concession prices at any of its State Series events.

Hickman: "We believe that establishing relationships with reputable companies whose values align with the Association is very beneficial to our schools. The financial contributions of these partners allows us to have a model in place where schools pay no entry fees or membership dues. Also, for example, our ball provider (Baden) supplies balls to every postseason tournament site for every round, so schools are never required to buy any specific balls. They can use the product of their choosing in the regular-season and our ball provider supplies the postseason balls. Over the past 10 years, 34 different principals have served on the IHSA Board, providing vast and ever-changing oversight of these agreements."

Rep. Chapa LaVia: "Oh and by the way, we have kids who are disabled who are unable to participate"

The IHSA has long granted accommodations to disabled individuals to allow them to participate with their high school teams, including individuals like Matthew Juskie, a visually impaired golfer from Lincoln-Way North golfer who spoke to the IHSA's committee that reviewed the possibility of beginning separate events for disabled athletes (an interview Matthew conducted with the committee is posted below). In 2012, the IHSA added separate state series events for disabled student-athletes in cross country, bowling and track, along with the only state association sponsored swimming program in the country for disabled student-athletes.

Hickman: "We have tried to be inclusive in everything that we do. Throughout the years when we had visually impaired golfers like Matthew Juskie or basketball players with prosthetic limbs come to us, we granted them exemptions so that they could be a part of their high school team, because that was what they wanted. I'm also incredibly proud of the work our committee and Board did to create new, separate events when the idea was first brought to us in 2012. We believe these programs will only continue to grow.

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