Special Olympics chairman and participants defend program

Posted at 5:00 AM, Mar 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-28 07:00:15-04
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos

WASHINGTON D.C. — For 50 years, the Special Olympics has helped countless Americans with disabilities feel special. Dustin Plunkett has played half a dozen different sports and says that’s why the bullies now leave him alone.

“It helped me find my voice and stand up for myself and put it into the bullies. But I wish the people who bullied me could see me today,” Plunkett said.

Most of the Special Olympics budget comes from private sources. But about $18 million a year is from the federal government. In its new budget, the Trump administration proposes eliminating that funding.

“We had to make some difficult decisions with this budget,” said Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

That left some Democrats fuming.

“I still can’t understand why you would go after disabled children in your budget. You zero that out. It’s appalling,” said Rep. Barbara Lee, D-California.

“Do you know how many kids are going to be affected by that cut?” Rep. Mark Pocan, D- Wisconsin, asked DeVos.

“I don’t know the number of kids,” she said.

“It’s 272,000 kids. I’ll answer it for you, that’s OK, no problem,” Pocan said.

Devos responded Wednesday, saying the Special Olympics “is able to raise more than $100 million every year. The federal government cannot fund every worthy program, particularly ones that enjoy robust support from private donations.”

The organization’s chairman Tim Shriver said the Special Olympics is so popular because it’s not just about sports. It’s about inclusion.

“People who don’t have disabilities stepped onto a field to cheer for a child with Down syndrome. She crossed the finish line, her arms went up in the air, the whole world changed,” he said.

The Trump administration has already tried and failed to kill funding for the Special Olympics twice. On Wednesday, a top Republican senator said he does not plan to support the cut, which means the Special Olympics will probably win this race for funding once again.