Betsy DeVos Wants to Cut More Than the Special Olympics

Though Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ proposal to cut funding for the Special Olympics has been under fire, the Department’s other proposed budget cuts for 2020 may have as much or more impact on disability services. Donald Trump stated that he was “overriding” the proposed cut by the Department under Betsy DeVos, but it’s not likely that the Special Olympics funding cut would have been approved by Congress, anyway.

DeVos and the Department of Education are proposing to cut a number of other programs, however, that benefit not only disabled children, but all children, and these proposed cuts have largely been ignored in light of the Special Olympics controversy.

Here are some areas where the Department of Education’s 2020 budget proposal could negatively impact disabled students:

Special Education Services: Currently, 14 percent of students receive special education services, a result of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Under this law, disabled students are guaranteed key civil rights, as well as an appropriate, free public education. After her confirmation as Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos began an effort to dismantle the protections for those with disabilities. The Department of Education in 2017 withdrew 72 guidance documents regarding students with disabilities.

“School Choice:” The Department of Education, in support of one of Betsy DeVos’ favorite causes, proposes to increase funding to charter schools by $60 million in the coming year, adding up to $500 million. DeVos has touted the opportunities afforded students who attend charter schools. Disabled students, however, are less likely than other students to be given spots in charter schools.

Supported Employment: Betsy DeVos’ proposed budget would cut funding to supported employment by $22.5 million. These services help connect disabled adults and students with jobs, allowing them to gain independence. Other funding to be reduced includes support for independent living services, funding to Gallaudet University for deaf students, and Arts in Education programs for low-income and disabled students.

s.e. smith, a contributor to, writes, “The proposed Special Olympics cuts will likely never come to pass — and may in fact be calculated to spark outrage so Republicans can look magnanimous when they decline to put it in the final budget, giving a “win” where one really isn’t deserved.” But, says smith of the other proposed cuts by Betsy DeVos and the Department of Education, “…Plenty of others will, and failing to pay attention to them could prove dangerous.”

Betsy DeVos defends plan to cut funding for the Special Olympics
Daily Mail [2019-03-27]

 DeVos on defense for cutting Special Olympics funding | Fox News [2019-03-28]

Betsy DeVos: Dismantling Civil Rights Policy in Education Since 2017

As U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos has a civil rights record that is either despicable or stellar, depending on whom you ask. Like other members of Trump’s cabinet, one of Betsy DeVos’ chief goals appears to be to systematically reverse Obama-era legislation, as well as other established civil rights policies.

Here are just four out of many of Betsy DeVos’ notable acts regarding civil rights in American schools:

    • At the beginning of her tenure as Education Secretary, DeVos recommended hefty spending cuts to the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights. The proposed reductions included cutting approximately 40 jobs, part of a $3.8 million reduction. (Congress, even though it is controlled by DeVos’ party, voted against DeVos’ recommendations and instead increased funding for the agency.)
    • Not long after Betsy DeVos was at the helm, the Office for Civil Rights drafted a memo to agency investigators that proved to be the beginning of a trend in the agency’s loosening approach to civil rights enforcement. The memo told investigators that instead of looking at “systemic bias” when investigating a claim of racial discrimination, they were to make swift (and likely insufficiently researched) judgments on individual cases.
    • The Office for Civil Rights has opted to place less consideration on Obama-era thinking that schools should be held accountable when educational or disciplinary outcomes vary by race. The agency may repeal a directive aimed at school districts to study whether African American students receive more harsh discipline than other students do. The agency also put a two-year delay on a policy that would ensure that students of color are not channeled disproportionately into special education programs. (Why this avoidance, nay, prevention, of fact-finding?)
    • DeVos seeks to diminish federal authority over schools, placing more oversight in the hands of state and local governments. As with the healthcare policies proposed by Congress that hid behind “states’ rights,” this could almost certainly mean disaster for both education in general, and for civil rights. (Would schools in states where the Confederate flag is largely supported make fair and ethical decisions about racial discrimination against their students?)

“We are law enforcement officials, not advocates or social-justice people,” said Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights Kenneth Marcus.

We should all let that sink in. Betsy DeVos’ appointee to help run the civil rights agency of the Department of Education – the office that oversees civil rights violations and was designed to enforce justice in such cases – has said “We are not advocates or social-justice people.”

The Check In: Betsy DeVos’ Rollback of Civil Rights | Late Night with Seth Myers [2018-07-24]

Black congresswoman visibly annoyed as Betsy DeVos struggles to answer basic civil rights questions | The Daily News [2018-05-22]