Disability Advocate Organizations Slam Betsy DeVos’s Proposed Budget Cuts to Special Olympics

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Tuesday defended the Department of Education's budget cuts, including to the Special Olympics.

During a House subcommittee Tuesday to review the department's proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year, DeVos said the department had to make some difficult decisions. The proposed budget would cut $18 million from the Special Olympics, the Detroit Free Press reported.

"We are not doing our children any favors when we borrow from their future in order to invest in systems and policies that are not yielding better results," DeVos said in prepared testimony, according to the publication.

In a statement to Newsweek, a spokesperson from the Special Olympics said the organization will continue to speak with lawmakers to show why funding the Special Olympics is important.

"As is the case each year after the President presents his budget to Congress, we engage in opportunities, such as our annual Capitol Hill Day activities, to educate lawmakers about why grant funding for our health and education programming is critical to protecting and increasing access to these services for people with intellectual disabilities," the statement read. "We look forward to continuing to raise awareness among U.S. government officials about the important work that Special Olympics doing in the United States and around the world."

Upon learning the news, disability rights organizations have spoken out about the funding cuts. Lawrence Carter-Long, the communications director for the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, told Newsweek that what the department is harming people who need funding the most.

“Taking this money and transferring it to charter schools undercuts what is required by law, which is an appropriate education for special education youth,” said Long. “It is demonstrative of what this administration does to continue to harm special education youth.”

Barbara A. Glassman, the executive director of INCLUDEnyc, an organization that helps families and young people with disabilities, said in a statement to Newsweek, that the news of proposing to cut the funding for the Special Olympics is disappointing.

"The Special Olympics nationally creates social and physical opportunities for young people with developmental disabilities to be included in communities with their peers that doesn't exist elsewhere,” said Glassman. “The Games provide a public space for people with disabilities to compete and achieve, and this has the power to change people's perceptions."

"We are deeply disappointed that the proposed cut to the Special Olympics does not seem to prioritize this important value,” the statement continued.

The proposed budget will also send $60 million to charter schools and give tax credits to companies and individuals who donate scholarships to private schools, according to the Detroit Free Press. The budget cut will take away $7 billion from the Education Department.

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Education Secretary Betsy DeVos listens to President Donald Trump speak to reporters during a meeting in the Cabinet Room, at the White House, on February 12. Disability advocate organizations criticized DeVos following the news that proposed budget cuts could stop funding for the Special Olympics. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

U.S. Representative Mark Pocan, of Wisconsin, asked DeVos if she knew how many children the budget cut would effect. DeVos did not know the answer to the question but said the organization is “awesome,” and “is well supported by the philanthropic sector as well.”

“In @BetsyDeVosED's budget, there are major cuts to programs like the Special Olympics. Sec. DeVos didn't know the number of kids who would be hurt by that cut, so I made sure she now knows that 272,000 kids are seeing their support taken away,” Pocan tweeted on Tuesday.