CHICAGO–The Better Government Association is again strongly urging Illinois Senate President John Cullerton to call for a full Senate vote on a bill to end the troubled and clout-riddled legislative scholarship program.
Moreover, that bill must go to the Senate floor without any so-called reform measures attached—a tactic that has been used before to thwart similar legislation designed to kill the state tuition waivers and which is now being considered by Democratic leaders reviewing the scholarship bill in a Senate committee.
“Enough with the game playing,” said Andy Shaw, the BGA’s president and CEO. “No reform can save this program. Legislative scholarships must become a thing of the past.”
The BGA contends there are enough Senate votes to pass the bill, which calls for completely ending the program. Already, the Illinois House has passed such a measure and Governor Quinn has said he would sign into law a bill to discontinue the controversial tuition waiver program, which the BGA and media outlets throughout the state have reported for years to be misused, abused and beyond reform.
The BGA, Chicago Tribune, State Journal-Register and other major newspaper editorial boards throughout the state have called on President Cullerton to muster the political courage to send a “clean” bill–one that’s unencumbered by so-called reform amendments–to the Senate floor for a full vote. The Senate bill calling for an end to legislative scholarships has 38 co-sponsors.
This Wednesday, a bill to end legislative tuition waivers will be heard by members of the Senate Executive Committee. In the committee, some Democratic leaders are again considering attaching so-called “reforms” to the proposed legislation before sending to the full Senate. Such “reforms” may include a new review panel or creating other bureaucratic oversight programs.
The BGA warns that any such “reform” movement is a sham and, in reality, a desperate plan to kill the bill when it comes before the full Senate.
Indeed, history has shown that this is the same old tactic used over the past two years, when the Senate passed so-called “reform” measures that placed some limitations on how lawmakers can hand out scholarships.
Over the past two years, Governor Quinn has vetoed such so-called “reform” legislation that did not take the final step to eliminate the program, stating that he could not “in good conscience sign any legislation that continues to bestow this benefit on a select few.” As recently as March, Governor Quinn has made it very clear that he will accept nothing less than a complete elimination of the program.
The BGA agrees, arguing that tuition waivers or scholarships should be awarded to deserving students by educators, not politicians, and that Illinois doesn’t need to create another layer of bureaucracy to vet lawmakers’ recommendations. The BGA is not suggesting a cut in scholarship dollars or scholarships themselves—just an end to an endlessly corrupted program.
For years, investigations based on documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act from the Illinois State Board of Education conducted by the BGA and media outlets show that lawmakers routinely give scholarships to friends, family, and campaign contributors. Even the FBI has been looking into the program.
“Legislative scholarships have been misused and abused for too long and must come to an end,” said Shaw. “The last thing we need is another agency or panel to referee lawmakers’ recommendations. We have enough government already, and programs that don’t work, like this one, should be scrapped.”
For more information, contact Emily Miller, Policy and Government Affairs Coordinator at 773-203-9654 or firstname.lastname@example.org.