Residents of East St. Louis are used to politicians making promises they don't keep, and the state legislature's bill creating a "promise zone" is the latest feel-good idea destined to disappoint.
The bill, which awaits Gov. Pat Quinn's signature, is intended to create scholarship opportunities for students who might not otherwise have the means to go to the local community college. Certainly students in East St. Louis can use helping hands, and this would be funded with private dollars rather than tax money -- to start, at least.
But as Sen. Kyle McCarter pointed out, there are already numerous private organizations that offer scholarships. Another layer of government is duplicating efforts and unnecessary.
Sponsor Sen. James Clayborne also touts this as a way to stop the bleeding at East St. Louis School District 189, which he said loses 250 to 300 students a year. If keeping families in the city is his goal, this is an ineffective way to achieve it. The possibility of a scholarship won't compensate for the city's low-performing schools or its sky-high violent crime rate.
But we suspect the promises being made aren't so much about helping students as they are about helping the political crowd, who would get a new way to grab power and create jobs for friends and family.
A promise zone board would be created that could hire a director, a treasurer, a secretary, a lawyer and anyone else deemed necessary; up to 15 percent of the budget could go to overhead rather than scholarships.
Mayor Alvin Parks and Clayborne would appoint the board members, and Parks would also serve on the board. Wouldn't the school superintendent be the obvious standing member? He would be -- if this bill was actually about the students.