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Scholarships on the block-- again

The third time may be the charm--or the end--for a controversial legislative scholarship program in Illinois.

That's because, for the third consecutive year, members of the Illinois House have voted to ax the scholarships, a near-century-old perk allowing state lawmakers each year to award two four-year scholarships to state colleges to constituents.

"This is a bill whose time has come," House Speaker Michael J. Madigan said of the scholarship legislation, which passed 83-28 earlier this month.

Now the bill must go to the Senate, which defeated measures to abolish the program in the past, and killed a similar proposal earlier this session.

The program, which costs the state $4.4 million a year, came under fire last year after news investigations revealed that dozens of the scholarships have been given to the children of campaign contributors, politicians, and well-connected state employees.

Although the scholarships set no income or academic requirements, they are intended for needy students. Several lawmakers who opposed the bill said the scholarships have helped thousands of students who otherwise would not have been able to pay for college.

The great pizza turn-off

Can pizza alter the television viewing habits of thousands of schoolchildren? Maine Gov. Angus King hopes so.

The governor offered free pizza to the first 15,000 students who turn off their televisions for one week. He declared the week of April 14-20 TV Turnoff Week, challenging students to watch no more than four hours of television in that period. Those who meet the challenge and send in a follow-up form to the state education department will each get a free pizza from Pizza Hut.

"This is the third year we've done this," said Dennis Bailey, a spokesman for the governor. "It's a big success every year."

Maine officials estimated that more than 15,000 students would participate in TV Turnoff week.

Maine has created a Web site that offers alternatives to watching television. That site is at:


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