At long last, state legislators have done themselves and taxpayers a favor by ending the practice of handing out tuition waivers.
Here's a fitting end to the infamous legislative scholarship program through which legislators for decades handed out college tuition waivers to family members and the children of political supporters and friends.
Even as the General Assembly was preparing to put an end to the program, indicted Chicago state Rep. Derrick Smith was awarding his full allotment of waivers (eight semesters of tuition) to favored students. The estimated cost is $100,000-plus.
With the Illinois Senate already on record repealing the much-maligned program, the Illinois House voted 79-32 Monday to do the same. The bill, which Gov. Pat Quinn promised to sign, ends the program as of Sept. 1.
That means members of the House and Senate have one last shot to hand out the tuition waivers for the upcoming school year, and Smith, who was indicted for bribery a couple of months ago, took full advantage.
He handed out his scholarships on May 18.
Other legislators are free to join him, but most of them won't. Many legislators have stopped handing out the tuition waivers because the program has been thoroughly tainted over the years.
Even now, federal prosecutors in Chicago are looking into how some legislators have awarded their tuition waivers. Despite having only one rule to abide by — recipients must live in the legislator's district — the program has been replete with fraud.
News reports have shown that state Sen. Martin Sandoval, a Cicero Democrat, handed out tuition waivers to five unrelated students who each listed the same address in his district. It turned out the address was the residence of a Sandoval campaign worker.
State Rep. Robert Rita, a Blue Island Democrat, recently gave a tuition waiver to the daughter of a political ally, Chicago Alderman Anthony Beale.
The list of past abuses could go on and one. Thankfully, as of Sept. 1, there won't be any similar abuses in the future.