Secretary for Department of Education Suggests Defunding of the Special Olympics

Ryan Wolfe Staff Writer

Recently, the Secretary for the Department of Education, Betsy DeVos, recommended that the Department of Education cut spending on various programs that the Department funds in order to reduce the deficit. The most controversial cut proposed was the defunding of the Special Olympics program. This, along with other cuts, would be part of the proposed 12% decrease in spending in the Department of Education budget.

In 2018, Congress spent $17.6 million on Special Olympics programs nationwide out of the $68 billion budget. However, the Special Olympics is not a government organization; the Department of Education grants the Special Olympics organization money annually. Many Congressional Democrats argued against DeVos’ proposed cuts to the Special Olympics, including Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut’s 3rd Congressional District who said, “The three education budgets from this administration have proposed the largest education cuts in four decades since the department was created in 1979.            DeVos defended herself by saying, “I think the Special Olympics is an awesome organization, one that is supported by the philanthropic sector as well.” Many professional athletes also weighed in on the conversation, such as Julie Foudy, the former captain of the United States women’s soccer team, who tweeted: “You need to only spend .01 minute watching these @SpecialOlympics athletes perform to understand the power of this program.”     President Trump reversed the administration’s position on the funding cut to the Special Olympics after the public outcry for the continued and uncut support for the program.

The 2020 budget proposal also includes eliminating the 21st Century Community Learning Center, which provides support for after-school and summer programs for students, specifically those who come from low-income families and under-performing school districts. It would expand both STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs nationwide and the federal Pell Grant system which provides financial assistance to students for higher education. The proposal would increase the amount of charter schools and school choice through the proposed Education Freedom Scholarships, a tax credit for both private and public schools for individuals and companies who donate to scholarships for private schools; this new program could cost up to $5 billion. 

The budget proposed maintains the level of funding for core special education programs like grants from the federal government to states. 

The Special Olympics supports more than five million athletes, one million coaches and volunteers, and hosts over 100,000 competitions annually in 170 countries while also providing educational programs for thousands of schools.