More Ill. legislators refusing to participate in controversial scholarship program

Jan 9, 2012

Reporting from Rachel Otwell of WUIS used in this report.

More legislators are refusing to participate in Illinois' controversial General Assembly scholarship program. It's a program that allows legislators to give students living in their districts tuition waivers to for state-run universities.

Many lawmakers promise they hold little to no sway in the decision process of who wins a waiver.

But others are accused of ensuring the scholarships go to relatives or campaign supporters, making the program one more example of Illinois policy gone corrupt.

Republican Representative Kent Gaffney of Lake Barrington says he won't give out the scholarships for another reason. He says he'll opt out because Illinois shouldn't give away money that state doesn't have.

"Many of the universities are often owed hundreds of millions of dollars in some of those unpaid bills," Gaffney said. "For me, this is just not the  time to do legislative scholarships. I just don't think that we can  afford it."

Gaffney's not alone. According to a list provided by the state board of education 38 percent of the General Assembly do not give out  the scholarships.

Attempts to further restrict scholarship eligibility and to abolish the program completely have failed to become law.

Republican Representative Jason Barickman of Onarga and Democratic Senator A.J. Wilhelmi of Joliet are the latest to say they won't give out the waivers.