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Donald Trump rows back on decision to cut Special Olympics funding by $18m

“I’ve been to the Special Olympics, I think it’s incredible,” he told reporters.

Image: UPI/PA Images

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP has reversed his administration’s decision to cut funding for the Special Olympics, saying the competition for people with intellectual disabilities is “incredible.”

“The Special Olympics will be funded,” Trump told reporters at the White House, saying he was “overriding” his administration.

I’ve been to the Special Olympics, I think it’s incredible.

He was speaking after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos caused an uproar when she said the government was axing $18 million in funding. The cut was part of a proposed hefty 10% reduction in overall federal education spending, a savings of $7 billion.

“We had to make some difficult decisions with this budget,” DeVos told a House appropriations subcommittee hearing on Tuesday.

When DeVos acknowledged she did not know how many American children would be affected by the cuts, House Democrat Mark Pocan provided the figure: 272,000.

The Special Olympics, founded by president John F Kennedy’s sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver in 1968, has grown into a global movement, providing competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

The organisation is largely funded by corporate and private donations. The US funds had been earmarked for Special Olympics education programs at 6,500 schools, where activities have shown to increase inclusion and reduce bullying.

Democratic congresswoman Barbara Lee called the Special Olympics cuts “appalling”.

Fianna Fáil’s spokesperson on disability Margaret Murphy O’Mahony said that the proposed budget cuts were “a cruel and unnecessary targeting of those with disabilities and special needs”.

With the outcry in the US growing, DeVos said yesterday that the Department of Education remains “focused every day on raising expectations and improving outcomes for infants and toddlers, children and youth with disabilities.”

Special Olympics chairman Timothy Shriver expressed disappointment with the proposal, saying the organisation does critical work in schools to help educate youths “about the importance of an inclusive mindset to the future of the country.”

The latest Special Olympics World Games were held last week in Abu Dhabi.

- with reporting from Gráinne Ní Aodha,  © AFP 2019  

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