Special Olympics Cuts Prove Shortcomings of Today’s America


Photo courtesy of Dominika Zarzycka.

Special Olympics is the world's largest sports organization for children and adults with intellectual disabilities and physical disabilities.

Matthew Welsh, Staff writer

It is no surprise that Betsy Devos has yet again made national headlines. Even less surprising is that it’s for all the wrong reasons. The embattled U.S. Education Secretary is no stranger to the spotlight, repeatedly having to defend herself after numerous far-fetched, almost ludicrous comments.

On Tuesday, March 26th, Devos sat before Congress and relayed the proposed federal budget for education, which included over $7 billion in budget cuts and an overall 10% reduction in education spending. Most notably, the proposition detailed a $17 million cut to the Special Olympics program, the world’s largest sports organization for individuals with mental disabilities.

When asked if she knew how many children would be affected by these Special Olympics cuts, Devos could not produce a number. The correct answer: 272,000 kids, students, and dreamers, will be stripped of their fundamental right to happiness, a move that not only preys on the underprivileged, but is unequivocally supported by our current Education Secretary.

Detracting from the rights of the underprivileged to address federal shortcomings is unacceptable and frankly disgusting. It is remarkable in this day and age, when both parties in can agree on something, and this recent proposal has offered a source of common ground, albeit one of disdain.

Democratic leader Bernie Sanders called the move “unbelievable,” and continues to wonder when the White house will “get our national priorities straight.”

Republican Senator Roy Blunt also spoke out in favor of the games, saying “I was just at the World Games and saw, as I have many times before, what a huge impact the organization has on athletes…our Department of Education appropriations bill will not cut funding for the program.”

More than likely, Blunt is right; the budget will not pass because it does not have enough bipartisan backing in Congress, and several sources are reporting that Trump has already called off the cuts. But although no policy has yet been enacted, the harm has already been done.

For the past couple years, I have volunteered at the DeKalb County Special Olympics, a program that although is not officially affiliated with the global program, is an example of how Olympic-like events can touch the lives of disabled individuals. For many competitors, this is the only time where they can feel, act, and compete like everyone else, and it’s difficult to find any one of them who isn’t smiling.

But it is now clear that this current administration values the funding of a million dollar border wall over the preservation of rights of the underprivileged, and this mere notion by Devos, who herself is grossly unqualified for her position, has proven just how misguided our nation has become. It is beyond time for change.

Maria Shriver, daughter of Eunice Shriver, who was the founder of Special Olympics, had this to say in response to the proposed cuts.

“This is one of the few issues both parties agree on, and we need that in our country today. This is a values issue,” said Shriver. “We cannot move our country forward with cuts like this. You are cutting the soul of our country.”