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Questionable Legislative Scholarships Abolished by Gov. Quinn

Illinois legislature in session.

In December 2009, ChicagoTalks wrapped up an investigation into problems with the Illinois General Assembly scholarships.  Over three days, we ran a series of stories that explained what the scholarships were supposed to be for but showed how they were being misused by Illinois state legislators. Our reporters created a database where readers could search for their legislators and check how scholarships were being doled out where they live. We had live audio from debates over the house bill that was introduced to abolish the flawed but often unfairly distributed scholarships.

Other media covered this story since 2009, and the legislation slowly worked its way through the legislature.  On Wednesday,  Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law a bill that abolishes the legislative scholarships and reserves the money for scholarships, which will be awarded based on need, not politics. The governor proposed to abolish this troubled program in 2009, 2010 and in 2011, and worked with the General Assembly to get it done this spring according to Rich Miller in CapitolFax.

Quinn began by noting that, “It’s a very good day for Illinois. It’s a very good day for reform, it’s a good day for the taxpayers of our state, it’s a good day for education, for students who work hard and try to get a scholarship they deserve…”

CapitolFax pondered whether it was  coincidental that the Chicago Sun-Times ran a story on Wednesday that reported that the  U.S. Attorney’s office is seeking records about legislative scholarships handed out by Sen. Annazette Collins during her 11-year career as a state representative and senator.

According to the Sun-Times, Collins gave waivers for scholarships to several students who listed Collins’ former home as their official residence  though some had other official IDs that listed addresses outside her district. The newly abolished  law required that legislative scholarship recipients reside in the awarding lawmaker’s district.


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