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One more reason why the legislative scholarship program ought to end

Monday, Jan 23, 2012 - Posted by Rich Miller

* You’d think that with all the heat on the legislative scholarship program that legislators would want to avoid doing stuff like this

In state Rep. Robert Rita’s legislative district — which covers a swath of Chicago’s south suburbs and part of the city’s far South Side — just one out of 10 people has a college degree. The daughter of Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) — a friend and political ally of Rita — is being given the chance to buck those odds and earn a degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign tuition-free courtesy of a coveted “legislative scholarship” handed to her by Rita.

That four-year freebie to the state’s flagship state university is valued at nearly $37,000.

It’s the latest in a string of cases in which the children of political insiders have been given one of the two four-year scholarships to a state university that each Illinois legislator gets to award every year to students who live in their district. Legislators also can split the scholarships, giving a partial tuition break to as many as eight students a year.

Beale and Rita (D-Blue Island) have close ties. Beale has endorsed Rita for re-election in the past, calling him a “strong” ally. Beale’s wife works for Rita. Dana Beale is a part-time, $400-a-month legislative aide at Rita’s district office who, until recently, was also making $76,684 a year working for Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White. And Rita has contributed more than $20,000 to the alderman’s election campaigns over the years.

Beale, who makes $110,556 a year as a Chicago alderman, says none of that put his daughter, Taylor Beale, at the head of the line when Rita was deciding which students would get four years of free college tuition.

“She filled out the application, submitted it to the state rep and received the scholarship,” says Beale.


* Ms. Beale does have impressive credentials…

[Rep. Rita’s] statement reads in part: “A National Honor Society scholar, a ‘Who’s Who Among High School Students’ member, a city champion on the girls’ varsity tennis team, a community Little League volunteer and a sterling recommendation from her principal at Whitney Young Magnet High School were the reasons that earned Taylor Beale a tuition waiver. Denying such an academically talented and civic-minded student a tuition waiver because of her father’s job would amount to blatant discrimination against a promising African-American student.”

OK, she’s talented and sharp. But the heat this will generate could wind up driving a big nail into this program’s coffin. Ironically enough, maybe Rita just did his colleagues a big favor.


  1. - Shore - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 9:31 am:

    This is now year 2 or 3 of this saga. Kill the program and focus on dealing with the state’s real problems.

    I know a lot of good government types read this blog, perhaps one could do a chart comparing these kinds of perks and salaries for public officials to other cities and states to see if other areas put up with this kind of nonsense

  2. - Sir Reel - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 9:32 am:

    Let’s see, Ald. Beale makes $110,556/year, Mom Beale makes $76,684/year, plus $4,800/year, for a family total of $192,040/year. Yeah, Taylor really needs the help.

  3. - GMatts - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 9:32 am:

    At one time the taxpayer cookie jar was open and available to all self-promoting pols. Then, when some transparency and publicity turned attention to the scholarships, it sort of lost its luster due to the wrong kind of publicity. Now the security cameras are on it and some arrogantly dismiss it as if its their right to use our money for their reelection. Who ARE these people?

  4. - Lincoln Parker - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 9:33 am:

    Kill the program. If she has such impressive credentials, she should apply for a merit scholarship from U of I and compete against everyone.

  5. - Anonymous - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 9:44 am:

    Aren’t we being a bit hypocrticial here, people?

    If one of Rita’s buddies needed a zoning permit, and Beale helped out, no one would bat an eye.

    If Beale needed state funds for something in the ward, and Rita played bagman…no one would bat an eye.

    Why are scholarships so sacred?

  6. - Jim - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 9:49 am:

    this is just another clear reflection of the contempt certain elected officials have for the public. they know they are beyond reach, and they simply know care what people think about what they do.

  7. - Jim - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 9:50 am:

    make that “don’t care”

  8. - wordslinger - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 9:52 am:

    It would be wise to get on the train to kill this thing. It’s leaving the station.

  9. - Wensicia - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 9:53 am:

    It’s discrimination NOT to show favoritism??

  10. - Dooley Dudright - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 9:58 am:

    Was this one picked up on CapFax already? (If so, then sorry.)

    The Repubs say they’re swearing off scholarships:,0,501471.story

  11. - RMWStanford - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 10:04 am:

    In theory I dont see anything wrong with the scholarship program but is has been poorly implemented by some members of the GA. This will probably be the end of it.

  12. - Emily Miller - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 10:09 am:

    —I know a lot of good government types read this blog, perhaps one could do a chart comparing these kinds of perks and salaries for public officials to other cities and states to see if other areas put up with this kind of nonsense—

    I looked into other states who offer this program. Both Louisiana and Maryland offer a program for legislative scholarships, and both are plagued with similar scandals of lawamkers rewarding political allies, family and friends.

    It’s just a bad idea to keep this thing alive. These headlines are not going to stop.

    But time and time again, the Senate refuses to let bills to end it get to the floor. It’s really time for Senate leadership to step up.

  13. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 10:19 am:

    DD, the answer to your question is “Yes.” Last week.

  14. - reformer - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 10:25 am:

    All the Senate Republicans and most House Republicans are on the abolition train now. Their self-righteousness should be tempered by the fact that it took some of them two decades of participating before deciding the program is rotten to the core.

  15. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 10:27 am:

    ===Why are scholarships so sacred? ===

    It’s not that they’re sacred. It’s that they’re not even funded. At least, that’s part of it. Also, the skyrocketing cost of tuition makes this an explosive issue for parents of college-bound, or college-enrolled kids. Plus, it’s a very visible and grating (and easy to report) relic of old-style politics here.

  16. - TCB - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 10:32 am:

    I don’t care how great of a leader or student Ms. Beale is, if her parents have a $200k per year household income funded entirely by the taxpayers, they shouldn’t even apply for government scholarship.

    This program has got to go.

  17. - Michelle Flaherty - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 10:38 am:

    Please read the SGOP propoganda carefully. They are temporarily giving up legislative scholarships. Its just for 2012. I’m sure it has nothing to do with it being an election year.

  18. - Emily Miller - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 10:46 am:

    ===it’s a very visible and grating (and easy to report) relic of old-style politics here===

    Absolutely. Use of the scholarships as political payback is so common that it’s almost become low hanging fruit. You have to do good reporting to connect the dots in the right way, but there are so many examples that there are plenty of headlines to go around.

    In an election year, it’s surprising to me that lawmakers are willing to accept headline after headline decrying their behavior. It’s nice that I still have the ability to be surprised by things that happen in Springfield, I suppose…

    Legislative scholarships continues to be a slap in the face to voters with college aged children, and an ongoing reminder of the way Illinois govt continues to be run as a game for insiders.

  19. - Anonymous - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 10:53 am:

    == Also, the skyrocketing cost of tuition makes this an explosive issue for parents of college-bound, or college-enrolled kids. ==

    Well that is an entirely different issue that really needs to be addressed outside the scope of this issue. Do we really need to throw the baby out with the bathwater here?

    If funding is the issue, just fund it…it’s not much money at all.

    Besides, there is so much buddy - buddyism out there that is far more destructive to Illinois families….I’d like to see some of the anger directed at this to some of these other issues.

  20. - mark walker - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 11:03 am:

    These should have been long gone, for many reasons. My favorite is to eliminate the culture of legislator “noblesse oblige”.

    To those who argue that they are “fair” in their selection process, I would point out that until I got politically connected, I had never even heard of these tuition waivers, nor had my neighbors with children, unless they were part of a local party apparatus. The group for this privilege is mostly pre-selected.

  21. - James the Intolerant - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 11:20 am:

    I thought there was a question concerning the Alderman’s daughter getting into Whitney at Young time, was she a “Principal’s Choice”? If you are going to give the scholarship, you can’t tell me there isn’t a deserving student who is really in need of the financial help. THe program is a joke, and for BEale to still accept the scolarship really shows that he is tone deaf.

  22. - Knome Sane - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 11:26 am:

    I think the point here that most missed is this: “What in the world are Bob Rita and Anthony Beale thinking?” How does this look good? Do they read the papers or watch TV? This may be the most arrogant thing I have seen in the post Blago era. It’s a head-scratcher, no doubt about it….

  23. - This Little Piggy - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 11:44 am:

    Just another example of the state picking winners and losers.

    End it.

  24. - Lundstrom - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 11:46 am:

    A couple of years ago Alderman Beale was caught up in the (minor) magnet school scandal. He was accused of using his influence to get his daughter enrolled at Whitney Young. Chicago Tonight et al. covered it.

    The legislative scholarships and all other preferential treatment for elected officials needs to stop. It is not like they are forced to run for office. Also, many of them have “other” jobs in addition to the government work that they do. The Beale’s did not need the scholarship and did not deserve it.

    I wonder if his constituents are aware of any of this, and I also wonder to what extent he goes out of his way to help give his constituents a leg up when it comes to securing access to bigger and better things.

  25. - Anonymous - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 11:49 am:

    == “What in the world are Bob Rita and Anthony Beale thinking?” How does this look good? Do they read the papers or watch TV? This may be the most arrogant thing I have seen in the post Blago era. It’s a head-scratcher, no doubt about it…. ” ==

    Unfortunately, arrogance is not a crime. And in a couple weeks, their actions will be forgotten by most as some other scandal pushes itself to the forefront of the news. They just have to wait it out, keep quiet and they will be ‘golden’.

    However, this program is clearly not serving anyone of need, so terminating it now would be a win-win for all. Illinois Legislators: Just kill the program and move on.

  26. - wordslinger - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 11:50 am:

    –If funding is the issue, just fund it…it’s not much money at all.–

    Yeah, lot of extra money laying around. What is the public purpose of this baronial perk outside of regular merit scholarships?

  27. - Soccertease - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 11:56 am:

    It blows my mind that a scholarship program is entrusted to politicians-period. Why not transfer that program to a transparent merit-based program e.g., based on need, service hours performed in high school, etc.)? Oh, sorry. That makes too much sense.

  28. - Cook County Commoner - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 12:20 pm:

    Every time another legislator gets caught in the scholarship give-away scandal, it is a reminder that many of our elected officials consider state government and oligarchy, and they are immune from voter retribution. Maybe they’re right.

  29. - Lil' Enchilada - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 12:27 pm:

    Mike Boland gave his best friend Barb Janus’s daughter a scholarship when he received the equivalent in political donations from her. There were allegations at the time that he sold the scholarship. Ms. Janus is his only individual contributor now that he’s running for State Senator. It looks fishy.

  30. - MeAgain - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 12:52 pm:

    It’s simple; If it looks bad don’t do it! Sheesh

  31. - reformer - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 12:53 pm:

    Prior to this new GOP election initiatve, legislators who abstained from the program were mainly in competitive districts. Those from safe districts like Rita, Molaro and Burke can absorb the headlines with no deleterious effect on their career.

  32. - Quick question - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 12:57 pm:

    So what about the legislators that do the blind application process? The ones who don’t dole them out to friends and family? Its so expensive to go to school today and the costs keep rising…why can’t we put parameters on the dang thing so that its hard to clout them? It seems that the biggest problem is that there are no rules. And you know that’s just dangerous in an environment like this.

  33. - TCB - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 1:02 pm:

    @Quick Question,

    What expertise or right to legislators have for handing these scholarships out in the 1st place? Seriously, how can we expect these guys to know the difference between who is/isn’t deserving?

  34. - Just Observing - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 2:34 pm:

    === Aren’t we being a bit hypocrticial here, people? ===


  35. - Mike Huntoon - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 2:42 pm:

    These scholarships need to go the way of te Dodo - students that are entitled to financial aid can get it thru the college or university they attend - there’s just no excuse for legislators to continue to force our state’s universities to accept students not paying tuition - remember this isn’t a real scholarship - it’s an unpaid voucher our Universities are forced to accept . . .

  36. - Just Asking - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 2:59 pm:

    wasn’t there some earlier news on a relative of the alderman getting some help with Whitney Young admission? If so, same relative?

  37. - Tommydanger - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 3:20 pm:

    Seems like a good time to give props to my Rep. Bob Pritchard who has, like many others, passed on the opportunity to award legislative scholarships. Thanks Bob!!

  38. - CJLane - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 3:30 pm:

    ” ‘Who’s Who Among High School Students’ ”


    First, according to Wikipedia, the company that published WWAHSS went bankrupt in 2007 (ie before she was in high school).

    Second, it always was a pure vanity book–you buy a book, you get your name in it. Whoop-de-do.

  39. - Team Sleep - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 3:31 pm:

    The longer I am involved in government, the more I believe that laws and regulations must be as detailed and as black-and-white as possible. The legislative scholarship program is the perfect example. The law for such a program should be written in a way that leaves no doubt. The rules should be clear: no one associated with the legislator and no one who has the financial means to pay is eligible. That’s not harsh; it’s in line with the way many other scholarship programs are run. And then, to be safe, have a Board of Higher Ed panel that reviews each scholarship to ensure it meets the criteria.

  40. - Vote Quimby! - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 4:05 pm:

    ==Second, it always was a pure vanity book–you buy a book, you get your name in it. Whoop-de-do.==
    Agreed. If this is one of her top credentials…

  41. - Snucka - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 4:12 pm:

    Mr. Rita is a poster boy for what is wrong with IL politics. Nobody who knows anything about him should be stunned by this development. It’s too bad that there are people like him in power who are protected from any accountability.

  42. - Ronco Nagurski - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 4:20 pm:

    Snucka: I agree. Didn’t he just get appointed Calumet Township supervisor which was recently held by his mother? Question for Rich… Is that legal for him to hold both elected positions?

  43. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 4:28 pm:

    Yes, it’s legal. Stick to the topic, please.

  44. - It Keeps On Giving - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 5:30 pm:

    Bob just took out his opposition so stories like this one just rub off.

    From Board of Election Site
    DEMOCRATIC Removed

  45. - Cmon Man ! - Monday, Jan 23, 12 @ 10:20 pm:

    I agree as well that there should be a financial consideration on who gets the scholarship. Im sure there are other poor African Americans that really need the help. and if they earned it God Bless them.Its a Dictatorship in this State, and until the republicans take control of the house it will just get worse..

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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