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Emanuel raps state scholarship perk that went to Ald. Beale’s daughter

Mayor Rahm Emanuel Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) news conference taxicab reforms. Sun-Times file photo.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) at a news conference on taxicab reforms. Sun-Times file photo.

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Updated: February 25, 2012 8:19AM

Without mentioning Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) by name, Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday offered thinly veiled criticism of the South Side alderman for the legislative scholarship awarded to Beale’s daughter.

A joint investigation by the Chicago Sun-Times and the Better Government Association disclosed this week that State Rep. Robert Rita (D-Blue Island) — a friend and political ally of Beale who employs the alderman’s wife — gave Beale’s daughter a four-year, tuition-free ride to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

It’s the latest in a string of examples of coveted legislative scholarships benefitting the children of political insiders.

On Monday, Emanuel was asked whether he considered the Taylor Beale scholarship appropriate.

The mayor was reluctant to criticize Beale by name after partnering with the alderman on taxicab reform. But, Emanuel left little doubt about where he stands at a time when college costs are skyrocketing out of control for the average Joe.

“We’ve got to make sure, in an era where you earn what you learn, that college is accessible to everybody and that nobody loses out because somebody else gained,” the mayor said at an unrelated news conference on public safety.

As for the future of the much-criticized legislative scholarship program, Emanuel said it’s up to the Illinois General Assembly to “look at reforming and [bringing] integrity to a system to make sure that everybody in the neighborhood and everybody in our state has access to a college education who deserves it.”

Asked to respond to the mayor’s criticism, Beale said, “I agree with him. The fact that a person goes through the proper process and meets all the criteria -- they should not be excluded from the process.”

Despite his political alliance with Rita, Beale insisted that his daughter got the scholarship on merit -- not clout.

“I did not make one phone call whatsoever. She applied. She went through the proper process. She’s an A-B student and she qualified for the scholarship. It was not a favor to me,” he said.

It’s not the first time that Ald. Beale has been at the center of controversy for the decisions he’s made about his daughter’s education.

In 2009, a federal grand jury investigated how students were chosen for admission to some of the city’s most elite public schools with a particular focus on the five percent group handpicked by principals.

Two aldermen — Beale and Ricardo Munoz (22nd) — subsequently conceded that their daughters were admitted to Whitney Young High School after they called the school’s principal, Joyce Kenner.

Both Beale and Munoz insisted that they never pressured Kenner to accept their daughters as so-called “principal picks.” They both said they had made similar calls for constituents. Kenner maintained that she “did nothing wrong” and had “nothing to hide.” She was subpoenaed, but nothing ever came of the investigation.

Then-School Board President Michael Scott, who also received a subpoena, subsequently committed suicide.

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