The gift of free tuition to state universities is a perk some lawmakers are reluctant to forfeit. A watchdog group pushing a repeal of the “legislative scholarship” program says Senate leadership is ready to instead keep the program alive.   Emily Miller, policy director of the Better Government Association, says it’s likely Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) will amend the bill to alter the program enough that lawmakers can call it reform, rather than simply killing the program.


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“I would urge people not to be confused by the usage of the word ‘reform,’” says Miller. “This program is beyond reform at this point. Anything less than complete elimination of it is unacceptable. You cannot reform such a clout-laden program.”   What’s more, the governor has vetoed bills which fall short of eliminating the program. The effect, Miller says, is to keep the program as is.   Lawmakers may award free tuition to students; the only condition is that the students live in the lawmakers’ districts. Investigations have shown some of the students are children of lawmakers’ employees, friends, or donors; some don’t even live in their districts.


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