Special Education Cuts Spark Criticism

Heather Bryant, Writer

On March 26th, 2019, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration proposed the Education Department 2020 budget that calls for the elimination of millions of dollars funding for special education, including the Special Olympics; a proposal for which the administration and DeVos have faced widespread criticism. 

The proposed elimination would cut $17.6 million in Special Olympics funding, as well as $20 million in cuts to programs for blind and deaf students.

Junior and Friendship Club member Lily Vancans expressed gratitude that the proposed budget ultimately was not approved.

“I can’t stress enough how important special education is,” Vancans said.

Almost every student needs a little help to get through school, and it’s even more important that members of the special needs community get to participate in everything and be in school in the same way as able bodied kids.”

— Lilt Vancans

The proposed budget also showed an effort by Trump and DeVos to reduce the federal footprint and cut government agencies, plans which Congress has continually refused to approve. 

For 2020, DeVos proposed cutting 10 percent in the Education Department budget. 

In 2019, she had proposed cutting 11 percent, around $7.7 billion, but Congress rejected this, instead giving a record high $71.5 billion, almost $600 million more than the previous year. 

A similar situation took place with the proposed 2018 budget, in which Trump and DeVos opted to cut the department budget, but Congress rejected this and increased funding by $2.6 billion. 

Special Education teacher Hasmine Belmonte deemed these proposed cuts controversial, but said that we need to continue to fund programs that benefit students to live the best life that they can.

“In short, it is always controversial when there are proposed cuts in special education. Special education is one of the most vulnerable group of students in education, we need to continue to fund resources that benefit students to live life to the fullest,” Belmonte said.  

“There are few programs available; the Special Olympics provides that resource.”

PVHS Special Education Department Head Allison Klabe thinks that the rejection of the proposed budget speaks to how it should have never been brought up in the first place.

“I think the fact that the funding is no longer going to be speaks to the fact that it should have never been proposed in the first place,” Klabe said. 

“Why would we focus on affecting a program that does so much good and is so meaningful for a population that doesn’t get a lot of opportunities? Why would we want to cut something like that?”