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Minnesota Special Olympics Say They Have To Fight Annually For Funding

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/CNN) -- For the third year in a row, Democrats dinged Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Tuesday for proposing to cut funds from the Special Olympics, after-school programs and support for students from low-income families.

The difference is that this time, Democrats control the House.

"The three education budgets from this administration have proposed the largest cuts to education funding in four decades. That's since the department was created in 1979," said Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, who chairs the Appropriations Committee's Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee, at a hearing on DeVos' proposed 2020 budget. "Madam Secretary, I have to say, and maybe it's offensive: Shame on you."

Wisconsin Democratic Congressman Mark Pocan also questioned her about the cuts to Special Olympics, specifically if she knew how many kids are going to be affected by that cut.

"Let me just say again we had to make some difficult decisions with this budget," DeVos said, before admitting, "I don't know the number of kids."

Pocan informed DeVos that it would be 272,000 kids affected by the cuts.

WCCO's Reg Chapman spoke with Special Olympics Minnesota about what these proposed cuts could mean to them. Representatives with the organization said the fight for funding is something they do every year.

Locally, the $18 million proposed cut for Special Olympics International would hurt, but officials believe if it is approved, Minnesota Special Olympics will be in a better position to not cut programming than other states.

Special Olympics Minnesota President Dave Dorn says the $18 million that is proposed to be cut is really well used. He says the money is given to Special Olympics International and they use it as almost like an investment banking firm where they are providing seed money out to various states.

"They won't give it out unless it is matched by corporate dollars or individual giving. So for every dollar of that $17 million, it is matched three, four, five times and its pushed into the school system to create inclusive school programming, sports clubs," Dorn said.

Dorn says the cuts will not only affect more than 200,000 kids with intellectual disabilities, but it will actually impact millions of kids in schools. Minnesota has 100 Champion schools, or schools with inclusive sports where kids with and without disabilities play on the same team.

Dorn believes Minnesota's record of giving will help fill the financial gap so programming will not be cut. But he believes other states with less giving may be forced to cut programming.

Overall, DeVos proposed a 12% decrease in funding for her department for fiscal year 2020.

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