Legislative Scholarship Scam

January 07, 1992

Once again, state legislators will consider a bill in the General Assembly session that begins this month to end Maryland's politically tainted college scholarship program. And once again, sanctimonious senators and delegates will bury the bill, proclaiming their intentions to do good deeds with the millions of dollars they hand out while they use the funds to solidify constituent support for their re-election bids.

Legislative scholarships -- $6.4 million a year -- continue to rank as one of the biggest outrages perpetrated on the public by the General Assembly. It is an old-fashioned patronage system masquerading as a "good cause" issue for Maryland lawmakers. No other state in the nation permits legislators to award scholarships to constituents. And for good reason.

Lawmakers who agree that this scholarship scam should be abolished don't have the courage to push forcefully for its end. The powers that be like it this way. Most incumbents crave the prestige that comes with handing out partial scholarship awards to friends, political allies and even to relatives. They also like awarding scholarships to poor and academically talented students whose parents will be indebted to them at election time. It is an ideal system for solidifying an incumbent's control of the district.

Del. Gerry Brewster of Baltimore County and Common Cause will try this session to persuade legislators that the State Scholarship Administration should take care of handing out money directly to worthy students instead of first having to seek the patronage of a state delegate or senator. It is a commendable effort, one that should be supported by community groups and organizations concerned about removing politics from scholarship awards. Only through a concerted effort will state legislators finally realize that it no longer is appropriate to mix college aid and politics.

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