DkLHLAZXsAAC FrThree years ago, a young woman sat at the witness table in a Senate budget hearing, telling lawmakers what the Department of Children and Family Services scholarship program meant to her.

It meant that a former foster child, taken into state care and custody after being neglected and abandoned, had been able to attend college. It had given her a chance to strive for a brighter future otherwise foreign. She was committed to not being another foster care statistic. The DCFS scholarship empowered her commitment.

Lauretta Schaefer told her story to lawmakers in 2015 because Gov. Bruce Rauner wanted to cancel her scholarship and dozens of others. She would have had to drop out. Kids like her would never get the chance to enroll. It was part of Rauner’s Turnaround Agenda designed to wipeout programs the new governor deemed unworthy or unaffordable.

I’ve always found this early moment in the Rauner administration particularly offensive.

Here you had a governor saying the state should be competitive but compassionate. Yet, one of his first moves was to bring the budget ax down on a competitively awarded scholarship program that benefits wards of the state, who have suffered through all kinds of personal turmoil only to emerge academically successful and eager to take the next step toward improving their lives.

These young people should be celebrated, not cut off.

Thankfully, Bruce Rauner failed to eliminate the scholarships.

Ms. Schaefer finished her dance education studies at Illinois State University, graduated and now teaches in her field in Illinois. Hundreds of other students from similar backgrounds have been able to stay in or go to college because the scholarship program survived.

Had Rauner eliminated it, none of that would be possible. He also wouldn’t have been able to send out the wonderful press release his administration recently distributed praising the DCFS scholarship program and the new batch of students who will utilize it.

The governor now says these scholarships “will open the doors to a lifetime of possibilities for each of these young men and women.”

Yes, yes they will. And that’s the point we made three years ago in opposing his draconian cuts.

To top it off, the governor expanded the program, adding a 54th scholarship to the program he wanted gone. For Gov. Rauner, that is indeed quite a turnaround.

I’m thankful that the governor recognized he was wrong, that students like Ms. Schaefer were able to continue their studies and that a new crop of 54 students have a chance to celebrate his failure along with him. It will have to suffice for the apology he never offered for the chaos he caused in their lives.

-- Senator Mattie Hunter is a Chicago Democrat and sponsor of the bipartisan 2014 law that expanded scholarship opportunities for current and former wards of the state.

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