Advance Notice: Briefs

DeVos lashes out at media, Dems over Special Olympics cuts

By: - March 27, 2019 12:50 pm

Betsy DeVos | Gage Skidmore via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Wednesday struck back at the media and members of Congress after she was on the hot seat on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

DeVos, a Michigan native, testified before U.S. House Appropriations subcommittee. It was the first time she appeared in the chamber since Democrats took control earlier this year.

Democrats, including Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), went after DeVos for deep cuts in President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2020 education budget, especially for programs for disabled students. Funding for the Special Olympics was eliminated.

DeVos issued a statement that it was “unacceptable, shameful and counterproductive that the media and some members of Congress have spun up falsehoods and fully misrepresented the facts.”

However, DeVos didn’t deny that the Trump administration budget zeroes out funding for the Special Olympics.

“The Special Olympics is not a federal program. It’s a private organization,” she said. “I love its work, and I have personally supported its mission. Because of its important work, it is able to raise more than $100 million every year. There are dozens of worthy nonprofits that support students and adults with disabilities that don’t get a dime of federal grant money. But given our current budget realities, the federal government cannot fund every worthy program, particularly ones that enjoy robust support from private donations.”

At the hearing on Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.). said, “I still can’t understand why you would go after disabled children in your budget. You zeroed that out. It’s appalling.”

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) said the cuts would impact 272,000 children.

DeVos in her statement on Wednesday defended the budget, which cuts the Education Department’s funding by $8.5 billion — or about 12 percent — from what it received in fiscal 2019.

“Make no mistake: we are focused every day on raising expectations and improving outcomes for infants and toddlers, children and youth with disabilities, and are committed to confronting and addressing anything that stands in the way of their success,” DeVos said.

“The President’s budget reflects that commitment. It supports our nation’s 7 million students with disabilities through a $13.2 billion request for IDEA funding, the same funding level appropriated by Congress,” she continued. “All of that money goes directly to states to ensure students with disabilities have the resources and supports they need. The budget also requests an additional $225.6 million for competitively awarded grants to support teacher preparation, research and technical assistance to support students with disabilities.

DeLauro said on Tuesday, “I believe that this budget is cruel and I believe that it is reckless.”

U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar (R-Midland) thanked DeVos for her patience during the hearing.

Advance Washington Bureau Chief Robin Bravender contributed to this report.

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Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 21-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 4,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 70 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.