Cutting the Special Olympics is immoral, regardless of who ordered it


Graphics by Olivia Braito.

Ben Borrok, Senior Writer

Last week, announcements revealed that the Education Department removed funding for the Special Olympics from its proposed budget in an attempt to meet White House requirements. The outrage was widespread and heavily featured on social media, where the public criticized Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and other government officials for the budget cut. In response to the firestorm, U.S. President Donald Trump told a crowd at a rally that the Special Olympics will definitely be funded and that DeVos could stop attempting to justify the cuts. The outrage eventually died down, but the real story began to reveal itself later in the following week. Mainly, it revealed that DeVos did not make this decision herself, meaning that the proposed budgets submitted to the White House had always included Special Olympics. However, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) at the White House had consistently rejected the inclusion of said funding. The story also highlights the lack of communication within the White House, as Trump was not aware of the OMB’s decision to remove Special Olympics funding. But the news moves too quickly to ponder the reasons and potential consequences for this miscommunication as new inflammatory stories appear on the daily.


What we really have forgotten, however, is that the Education Department still faces a budget cut of 10 percent. As American schools fail to keep up with the global standard for educational proficiency, it raises the question: why isn’t there widespread outrage over these cuts? It seems as if a new report is published on the daily revealing staggering numbers regarding underfunded schools, impoverished teachers taking second jobs, and low graduation rates. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) asserted that in 2017, they saw no improvement in American students in the two years since the last report. This stagnation has led the NAEP to declare the last 10 years of education a “lost decade” for education reform. This will only serve to weaken our nation’s future as we are reliant on the development of an advanced workforce. How are we supposed to achieve greater economic success without the backing of strong academics?


These statistics, along with a decreased budget, should draw the ire of the public, yet the outrage was distracted by the Special Olympics funding. Was this a strategy to allow the White House to get away with the theft of our youth’s educational future? Probably not, but the recent trend of dehumanizing the physically and mentally disabled is quite suggestive.


On the campaign trail, Trump had drawn criticism for mocking a disabled reporter. Despite public demands to apologize, he brushed off the action as something the “fake news media” had simply construed. While this was an obvious example of dehumanization, the largest movement against the disabled is less obvious but much more sinister. For years, the anti-vax community has claimed to tie vaccinations to autism, effectively claiming autism to be worse than the potential diseases eradicated through vaccinations. This movement has demonized autistic people and contributes to a growing misunderstanding of disabilities. It is part of the reason as to why the Special Olympics is so important.


The past few weeks, Humans of New York has dedicated their social media to highlight the stories of participants and volunteers at this year’s version of the Special Olympics. Followers of the account have been exposed to the amazing power of the Games, which serves as a shining light for so many people all over the world. Those who have shared their stories discussed how the Olympics gives them structure in their lives and connects them to others; together, they form a strong and safe community.


The Special Olympics has been a bright spot in a world so full of bad news, it is utterly heartless to even discuss defunding it. At the same time, those with disabilities should never be used as a distraction from bigger news. We need to protect children, both abled and disabled, from long term consequences that can arise due to the planned budget cuts to the Education Department. It would be a morally just and necessary way to utilize the outrage train.

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