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Trump Says He Is Overriding Proposed Cuts to Special Olympics

On Thursday, President Donald Trump said he would not be cutting funding for Special Olympics, as originally requested in the 2020 Department of Education proposed budget, which he signed.

“I heard about it this morning. I have overridden my people,” he told reporters at the White House. “We’re funding the Special Olympics.”

This comes after three days of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos defending the proposed budget in a House of Representatives subcommittee panel. The cuts and DeVos’ statements have drawn backlash from several lawmakers and disability advocates.

The budget’s original proposed cuts would eliminate the entire $17.6 million Special Olympics budget, which provided support to expand training initiatives within the sports program. This is about 10 percent of Special Olympics’ overall revenue, according to ESPN.

Of the Trump administration’s $4.7 trillion proposed budget for 2020, $64 billion would be allocated to the Department of Education. This is a $7 billion — or 10 percent — cut from 2019’s budget. This would also include significant cuts to a number of programs that support students with disabilities such as the Hellen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults, American Printing House for the Blind, National Technical Institute for the Deaf and Gallaudet University, a school for students with hearing loss. Trump has not commented on the future of these cuts.

 “We had to make some difficult decisions with this budget,” DeVos said to Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) in Tuesday’s hearing. “Let me say that Special Olympics is an awesome organization, one that is well supported by the philanthropic sector as well.”

On Wednesday, U.S. Department of Education Press Secretary Liz Hill released a statement to The Mighty:

The special Olympics raises more than $100 million philanthropically every year and while the Secretary is very personally supportive of their mission and work, the activities of special Olympics are better supported with other state, local and private funds.

DeVos later put out a statement further defending the budget’s cuts to Special Olympics and accusing the media of “misrepresenting the facts.” She wrote:

It is unacceptable, shameful and counterproductive that the media and some members of Congress have spun up falsehoods and fully misrepresented the facts.

Make no mistake: we are focused every day on raising expectations and improving outcomes for infants and toddlers, children and youth with disabilities, and are committed to confronting and addressing anything that stands in the way of their success.

The President’s budget reflects that commitment. It supports our nation’s 7 million students with disabilities through a $13.2 billion request for IDEA funding, the same funding level appropriated by Congress. All of that money goes directly to states to ensure students with disabilities have the resources and supports they need. The budget also requests an additional $225.6 million for competitively awarded grants to support teacher preparation, research and technical assistance to support students with disabilities.

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.”

However, following Trump’s remarks on Thursday, DeVos issued another statement to 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. This is funding I have fought for behind the scenes over the last several years.