by Michael Wille
Yesterday, the Illinois State Senate voted 43-5-5 to end a controversial legislative scholarship program that had been abused multiple times by elected officials. The bill now moves to the House for consideration. Reaction was overwhelmingly positive from members on both sides of the aisle:
Sen. Cullerton (D-Chicago), who had been the last remaining obstacle to the bill, changed his mind and voted to end it saying: “We have very serious issues to confront in the final weeks of the spring legislative session. While it’s a shame that we have to eliminate opportunities for so many well-deserving students, it’s clear that this issue has become a distraction. Now we can shift our bipartisan efforts today towards addressing the state budget, pensions and Medicaid.”
Sen. Sandack (R-Downer’s Grove): “I’m extremely pleased that we’re finally getting closer to eliminating this scandal-ridden program and that colleges and universities won’t be forced to pick up the tab for these scholarships given on behalf of state legislators. It is my hope that the House quickly concurs with the Senate amendment and Governor Quinn signs this legislation to eliminate these scholarships for good.”
However, a few members were very displeased with the outcome of the vote. Sen. Kimberly Lightford voted present and argued the following:
Sen. Lightford (D-Chicago): “To block constituents from having an opportunity for a legislative scholarship because you have a small number of 177 [legislators] who might have had mishaps is really a travesty when we know we haven’t properly funded the MAP [Monetary Award Program] grants. We know we haven’t properly funded the education budget,” said Lightford, who went on to challenge Gov. Pat Quinn for pushing for abolition of a program established in 1909. “I think this will be one of his regrets,” Lightford said.
Sen. Donne Trotter voted no and criticized his fellow members for their vote:
Sen. Donne Trotter (D-Chicago): “It is a bad idea [to the end program] done because one individual has done something wrong that is literally stupid.”
While Sen. Lightford’s and Trotter’s concerns may appear legitimate, the following quotation from State Rep. Monique Davis more than a month ago sums up exactly why this program needs to be ended:
Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago): “I just think it’s a nice thing we’re doing. I really do. Look, there was so-called corruption or whatever in the governor’s race, but we still have a governor’s office. … When we start abolishing everything where we find some misdeeds, we might have to close up down here.”
All Illinois students deserve a legislature working to reduce college costs through market reforms, not rewarding donors and currying favor with scholarship recipients who don’t even live inside their district.