Bipartisan opposition to resurrecting legislative scholarship program

State lawmakers dolling out scholarships to state universities was unfunded, abused and ultimately abolished in 2012. There’s an effort to bring it back, but it could be dead on arrival.

State Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Chicago, said the sponsor’s heart might be in the right place, but now is not the right time.

“That program became untenable for a variety of reasons and we need to focus on funding higher education,” Zalewski said.

State Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, said the measure likely won’t go anywhere.

“It was a good program except for too many legislators were abusing it and because of that abuse we took that, and rightfully so, away,” Syverson said.

Investigations found lawmakers giving scholarships to students outside of their district and to politically connected families, among other problems.


“It was a good program except for too many legislators were abusing it and because of that abuse we took that, and rightfully so, away.”
–State Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford

State Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Northbrook, said the program also was an unfunded mandate for public universities.

“Perhaps most importantly is we were not funding those for the universities,” Nekritz said. “They were picking up the tab for those on their own.”

For those reasons, Syverson doesn’t expect the measure to advance.

“We just can’t afford to be doing that,” she said. “So that proposal certainly will not go any further.”

State Rep. Thaddeus Jones, D-Calumet City, the sponsor of the measure, said his bill would “give the State Board of Education the ability to revoke any scholarship given in a fraudulent manner. The member who gave the scholarship out would be required to reimburse the university and that member would be ineligible for re-election as a member of the General Assembly.”

Jones also said the measure “is not an unfunded mandate as universities would not be impacted in the number of MAP awards that can be given to students.”

Jones said he looks forward to a spirited debate on the merits of the bill.

The measure is in the House Higher Education Committee with a hearing scheduled next week.

–Illinois News Network

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!