* 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.