Federal funding for the Special Olympics program is unnecessary, according to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who said on Tuesday that the program is adequately financed via the philanthropic sector as she defended its elimination from the department’s budget.
"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," DeVos told Congress, according to USA Today.
Despite calling for the elimination of funding for the program — which totals $17.6 million — DeVos’ budget proposal would gift an additional $60 million to charter school funding, as well as “create a tax credit for individuals and companies that donate to scholarships for private schools.”
Her proposal reduces the Education Department’s overall funding by about 10 percent of its current budget, which comes out to more than $7 billion.
Citing redundancy or ineffectiveness, DeVos said the elimination of billions of dollars in grants for several areas of public education aimed at improving student achievement — including reducing class sizes, facilitating professional development for teachers, increasing technology use in classrooms, and the overall improvement of school conditions — is warranted as well.
That DeVos would cut spending in areas affecting public schools while shifting more funds toward charter schools should come as no surprise; the secretary has long supported school choice, arguing that parents should have the right to select whichever school they feel best suits their child.
However, most students in the U.S. attend public schools, and opponents of federal funding for charter schools — which are independently run and regulated less closely than their public counterparts, USA Today noted — say allowing taxpayer money to follow students to such schools undermines the public system.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CN) called DeVos’ budget proposal “cruel and reckless,” asking, "As secretary of the Department of Education, how can you support, even boast, about taking 10 percent … away from our teachers and students?"
But USA Today said that DeVos’ cuts are unlikely to become reality, as even when Republicans held both houses of Congress “most of DeVos' strongest proposals for cuts or spending were turned back.”