WASHINGTON — Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testified in front of the House Appropriations subcommittee Tuesday, defending the 2020 education budget proposal which has deep cuts to programs, one of them being the Special Olympics.

The budget proposes cutting $17.6 million from Special Olympics education programs. It also showed that 29 programs would be eliminated; the cost of those programs is $6.7 billion.

“We had to make difficult decisions in the budget,” said DeVos. “In doing so, we have really focused in on the things that we are know are yielding results.”

The budget proposal says that the Special Olympics education programs are getting a budgetary cutback because “such activities are better supported with other Federal, State, local, or private funds.”

A Democrat-led Congress had plenty of questions about the budget proposal. 

"Do you know how many kids are going to be affected by that cut?" asked U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisconsin). He went on to say that there are 272,000 Special Olympics athletes that would be affected by the cuts.

“Special Olympics is an awesome organization—one that is well supported by the philanthropic sector as well,” DeVos said.

Pocan brought up other cuts to special education and asked DeVos, “What is it that we have a problem with children who are in special education? Why are we cutting all these programs over and over within this budget?”

DeVos defended the budget saying that the federal government has maintained funding. "Supporting students with special needs, we have continued to hold that funding at a level amount," she said. 

The Special Olympics did not directly address the budget proposal in a statement, however they did post on a Facebook following the committee hearing. The post said “Our work in schools has been statistically proven to increase inclusion & improve whole school communities for millions of young people with & without intellectual disabilities.”

While the budget shows billions of dollars in program cuts, it also shows that there are millions of dollars allocated to increasing school of choice programs. A part of that is $500 million for the charter schools program, which is an increase to the $60 million allocated for the 2019 fiscal year.

DeVos has been a longtime advocate for charter schools and school of choice.

Tuesday was the Secretary of Education’s first appearance before a Democrat-controlled House panel.

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