Bill to eliminate legislative scholarships moves forward in Senate

Tribune reporter

Lawmakers who want to end an often-abused legislative scholarship program were hopeful for a breakthrough after a top leader in the Illinois Senate got on board today.

Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago changed his position from wanting to reform the program to saying it is "time to end it."

Cullerton was joined as a co-sponsor in a scholarship ban by Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, whose entire GOP caucus has agreed to quit handing out the scholarships.

Radogno said she was "very pleased" with the development. The examples of abuse in the system, documented for decades by the Tribune and other news outlets, have provided the justification for stopping the program, she said.

Most recently, federal authorities subpoenaed the state education records of scholarships given to the relatives of a campaign donor to former state Rep. Bob Molaro, D-Chicago.

Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, said the program had been helpful to many students over the life of the century-old program and she complained the new effort to ban the scholarships is a bow to "media pressure."

The measure advanced from a subcommittee this morning with two senators voting in favor and Lightforfd voting present.

Lightford said she voted present rather than in opposition because she supported a task force placed in Cullerton's bill to review all of the $350 million worth of tuition waivers granted at state universities.

Cullerton said his measure has the support of House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, who has for years supported different versions of a ban.

Cullerton said he expected passage in both chambers.

For years, the Senate under Democrats and Republicans have resisted an outright ban.


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