Budget Proposal: Going Beyond Special Olympics
Just as the International Special Olympics are coming to an end, we find out that the current administration is looking to end all federal funding to the beloved institution. They believe that Special Olympics can and should continue on philanthropy alone, and the backlash has been (rightfully) intense.
The Special Olympics goes way beyond athletics. It is a platform that offers support and awareness to people with different abilities. Special Olympics have offered a way for people with disabilities to decrease isolation, increase independence and be engaged in their community for over 50 years. However, let’s not forget what else is at stake in this budget cut. Even if this budget cut passes, the Special Olympics would be able to recover. However, other educational services that are being cut to these students cannot.
In 2017, the current administration withdrew 72 guidance documents relating to students with disabilities, citing a Trump mandate to remove “regulatory burdens”. Which makes it unsurprising that the new budget proposal aims to cut programs and funding that helps students with disabilities.
The proposal funnels $500 million to charter schools, which “school choice” proponents are all for. However, this negatively impacts students with disabilities. Students who require an IEP are not likely to be able to attend, or to be accepted, to charter and private schools. They do not have the same requirements as public schools to provide services under IDEA to students with disabilities, and these schools are often not held accountable by the government to ensure equal education to all students.
The budget also proposes $700 million for “school safety” programs, which sounds great on the surface. However, this includes “evidence-based practices for improving behavioral outcomes”. Students with disabilities and students of color are often the ones impacted by these practices. Concerns with these types of plans are that interventions for students with disabilities will include forced medication, use of restraints (already an issue in many schools), being arrested, being suspended, or being expelled for “challenging behavior”. Instead, all faculty should be taught de-escalation strategies and given support around creating a plan that respects student’s rights, while keeping them and others safe.
The budget proposal also aims to cut funds to supported employment by $22.5 million. Schools work hard to make sure that when a student exits, they are prepared for life after high school. They help to train students with disabilities on job skills, find employment, and will work with counties to get students set up with long term services. Paid employment is already rare for people with disabilities, or at least paid employment that is enough to support a person financially.
Cutting funding to beloved institutions like Special Olympics is petty and cruel, but we cannot become hyper focused on this issue and completely miss all the other ways this budget proposal negatively impacts students with disabilities. This is why Heart is making efforts to raise awareness about policy and funding issues, as well as advocate for what we believe will best impact the people we are working with. Please contact your legislators to let them know you will not stand by while students with disabilities are losing the funding and services they need to be successful.