At least a couple of state senators are not excited about giving up the perk of awarding free college tuition to students in their districts. A Senate committee has approved a bill to do away with the legislative scholarship program, adding a provision for a task force to examine all tuition waivers, totaling $300 million. The legislative tuition waivers, while getting attention because of alleged abuses, make up a fraction of that.
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State Sen. Donne Trotter (D-Chicago) said the program has done a lot of good since it was established in 1909. And Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood, pictured) suggested the Better Government Association, which has pushed for the repeal, is more interested in publicity than in anything else: “I think it’s a travesty for education in the state of Illinois,” said Lightford. “You have 177 members in the General Assembly, but you guys keep narrowing in on one, two, or three members who may have had mishaps for whatever reason ... Sometimes, being a watchdog doesn’t provide opportunities for people when you just want to get that one-line story or that front-page story.” “This came about as a result of a number of discussions, both pro and con, for this program,” said Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), the sponsor. “In fact, I received a letter from a Republican state representative, Rep. (Jim) Sacia (R-Pecatonica), even after the bill passed the House abolished it, indicating a desire to not throw the baby out with the bathwater … as he had a lot of young people who received scholarships and benefitted from that.”
Cullerton has long opposed an outright repeal of the program, and Gov. Pat Quinn has vetoed bills which fell short of abolishing the waivers, saying the program has been so badly abused that it cannot be reformed and it must be abolished. HB 3810 has passed the Senate Executive Committee.