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  • United States Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos

    United States Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos | Photo: Reuters file

Published 27 March 2019

DeVos expressed that while she considers the Special Olympics to be "an awesome organization," it is "well supported by the philanthropic sector."

In a  review of the 2020 Education Department proposed-budget before a United States House of Representatives subcommittee, Education Secretary Besty DeVos received backlash on several cuts, most notably, a nearly US$18 million slash to the Special Olympics. 

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DeVos proceeded to defend the budget, which was proposed by President Donald Trump, before the subcommittee, saying "we had to make some difficult decisions."

The Special Olympics is a non-profit organization that provides sports training and competition for disabled children and adults. Athletes and advocates of the organization presented their case to Congress last month. 

DeVos expressed that while she considers the Special Olympics to be "an awesome organization," it is "well supported by the philanthropic sector." When asked by Representative Mark Pocan if she knew how many children would be impacted by the cuts, DeVos said she did not.

Pocan noted that 272,000 kids would be impacted.

DeVos, a philanthropist who is reportedly worth about a billion dollars, donated a quarter of her annual $199,700 salary to the Special Olympics after proposing millions in cuts to the program last year. Generally, DeVos's donations have largely gone to advocacy groups for charter schools, private schools and religious organizations.

The 2020 budget proposal has requested an additional US$60 million to fund charter schools. 

Secretary DeVos defended the move, claiming that “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.” The statement did not go over well, with Representative Rosa DeLauro, who then remarked: “Madam Secretary, I have to say, and maybe it’s offensive: Shame on you.” 

Trump has also targeted other programs that benefit individuals with disabilities for budget cuts, including Medicaid, initiatives dedicated to autism and other developmental ailments and education grants for states and institutions that serve blind and deaf students.

DeVos proposed a general cut of 12% for the entire Department of Education. 

Trump's proposals to cut funding for education have already been rejected in previous years, even before Democrats took over the House.

Representative Nita Lowey expressed confusion over the proposal, stating that "this year, I'm puzzled. You're trying to cut it again, completely ignoring the strong evidence that parents support this program and in fact want more of it."


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