Education Budget Proposal Sparks Controversy as Special Olympics Faces Defunding

In a budget proposal last week, Education Secretary Betsy Devos called for the removal of government funding from the Special Olympics. This was part of President Trump’s budget plan to decrease funding for education and prioritize spending on the military and the proposed border wall. 

 The education budget faces a proposed ten percent cut this year as President Trump plans to cut funding for the third straight year. From a logical standpoint, it makes the most sense to keep as much funding as possible in the areas that are needed for the future leaders of tomorrow. I think the thought was that although special education and the Special Olympics are valuable to those involved, it is not as necessary for the future success of our country. Additionally, the Special Olympics raises over $100 million on its own annually, and thus is not necessarily in desperate need of government funding. 

Defending her plan, Devos stated that while she supports the mission of the Special Olympics, the government cannot fund every nonprofit organization that needs money. Devos has personally given financial support to the Special Olympics and donated a quarter of her salary to the organization last year.

 Many politicians condemned this proposal and its negative impact on people with disabilities. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders called the proposal, “unbelievable.” California Representative Barbara Lee was shocked by the proposal and stated that, “I still can’t understand why you would go after disabled people in your budget plan.” Even Republican presidential candidate John Kasich called the proposal “outrageous.”

Although it was the logical course of action to take, the proposal is appalling from a humanitarian and ethical viewpoint. Political philosopher John Rawls wrote in his second principle of justice that social and economic opportunities must be open to all people regardless of status. This proposed budget cut would violate that principle as it defunds programs aiming at helping those with disabilities.

The Special Olympics is not only an athletic organization. They extend their benefits beyond competition and into the nation’s schools. Chairman Timothy Shriver said that the program offered opportunities for students with disabilities and helps to create a more inclusive environment in schools. Additionally, the organization offers programs in schools to help reduce bullying towards students with disabilities, which is a major benefit for many students. 

President Trump addressed the issue and overrode the proposed cuts by backing the funding for the Special Olympics. This will allow the Special Olympics to retain the $17.6 million from the federal government and will give their organization a significant boost in funding.

While Trump’s seemingly moral response to the issue appeased those angered by the proposal, his actions may not have been fully honorable. He also attempted to cut their funding last year but was overridden by Congress. He went on to say that he had just recently heard of the controversy and that he personally finds the Special Olympics “incredible” and worthy of funding.  This move seems a little bit wishy-washy, but at least the funding continues offering support for one of the most influential organizations in terms of offering opportunities to those with intellectual disabilities.

The budget still has yet to be approved by Congress, but at the moment it appears that those in support of the Special Olympics and those who compete in the games can be fairly certain that there will likely be no major change to their funding.