On Tuesday, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos went before a House appropriations subcommittee and, as she has in every previous year of the Trump presidency, requested a series of huge cuts to the Department of Education—$7 billion in total this time around, which is roughly 10 percent of the department’s budget. Among the proposals that DeVos made to that end was eliminating the entirety of the $17.6 million in federal spending dedicated to the Special Olympics. By including this in their proposed budget, DeVos and the Trump Administration were sending the message that eliminating federal funding for the Special Olympics was something they wanted to do, even though Congress would almost certainly not agree to it. The Republican congresses that preceded this one didn’t make those large cuts to Special Olympics funding, either, although DeVos proposed them all the same.
This is kind of a gross thing to want, as numerous people noted both to DeVos herself at the hearing and after. “Our budget should reflect our values,” Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen told Deadspin. “Secretary DeVos’s proposal shows that Trump’s administration does not value all students. Cutting funding to the Special Olympics and similar programs in order to funnel money toward charter schools shows a clear disregard for these students.”
Again, that is the entire point of this budget proposal: an expression of what DeVos and Trump prioritize, and what they don’t. Every bit of criticism that DeVos has received has been the result of people apprehending exactly what the budget request attempted to communicate. “The message she’s sending is that people with special needs, children with special needs, aren’t important enough to be part of society,” observed a 400-pound pro wrestler, correctly.
DeVos took issue with all these people correctly assessing the signal that her proposed budget sent on Wednesday. “It is unacceptable, shameful and counterproductive that the media and some members of Congress have spun up falsehoods and fully misrepresented the facts,” DeVos tweeted.
She issued a statement that aimed to “correct the record.”
The Special Olympics is not a federal program. It’s a private organization. I love its work, and I have personally supported its mission. Because of its important work, it is able to raise more than $100 million every year. There are dozens of worthy nonprofits that support students and adults with disabilities that don’t get a dime of federal grant money. But given our current budget realities, the federal government cannot fund every worthy program, particularly ones that enjoy robust support from private donations.
So consider the record corrected: Betsy DeVos continues to want to eliminate all federal funding of the Special Olympics.