Update, March 31, 2019: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has reversed her course on cutting Special Olympics funding after President Donald Trump backed off the budget proposal he signed.
"I just told my people I want to fund the Special Olympics," Trump said on Thursday, USA Today reports. "I have overridden my people. We're funding the Special Olympics."
DeVos responded by similarly backtracking in a statement, per the Associated Press. “I am pleased and grateful the president and I see eye to eye on this issue and that he has decided to fund our Special Olympics grant," she said. "This is funding I have fought for behind the scenes over the last several years.”
This article was originally published on March 27, 2019.
On Tuesday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos proposed a $60 million increase in funding to charter schools. Where would that money come from? She plans to gut all $17.6 million of federal funding for the Special Olympics.
In her testimony before the House, DeVos, the former Michigan Republican Party chairwoman and wife of former Amway CEO and billionaire Richard DeVos, Jr., explained the proposed cuts saying, "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."
California Representative Barbara Lee challenged DeVos' statement.
"I still can’t understand why you would go after disabled children in your budget," Lee said Tuesday. "You zero that out. It’s appalling.”
The Special Olympics was founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver and currently runs programs that celebrate the athletic contributions of more than 5 million children and adults with intellectual disabilities in 170 countries. The organization receives support from the federal government and private philanthropies. A Trump administration official says that DeVos has donated part of her $200,000 government salary to the Special Olympics.
USA Today reports that the Education Secretary's proposed budget also includes "cuts to grants that improve student achievement by reducing class sizes and funding professional development for teachers as well as cutting funds dedicated to increasing the use of technology in schools and improving school conditions."
In addition to eliminating federal financing for the Special Olympics, the proposal has been criticized for its focus on funding for charter schools and the creation of tax credits for contributions to scholarships to private schools, which some argue undermines traditional public schools, where the majority of students are educated. Overall, the proposal aims to eliminate 10% of the Education Department's current budget.