President Trump said Thursday he is reversing his administration's proposal toafter days of fierce backlash by lawmakers and the public.
"The Special Olympics will be funded," Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House before leaving for a rally in Michigan. "I just told my people, I want to fund the Special Olympics, and I've just authorized a funding of the Special Olympics."
The president doesn't have the power to authorize funding for the Special Olympics, since spending levels are set by Congress. But the recent White House budget proposal had requested cuts to the program.
"I've been to the Special Olympics. I think it's incredible, and I just authorized a funding," Mr. Trump continued. "I heard about it this morning, I have overridden my people. We're funding the Special Olympics."
The Special Olympics welcomed the shift on Thursday and thanked Mr. Trump for supporting the funding.
"This is a non-partisan issue and we are proud of our work to create inclusion in schools and among young people," the group said in a statement. "This is a crucial time in our schools and our communities."
The administration's recently releasedcalled for $7 billion to be cut from the Education Department, including federal funding for the Special Olympics. The organization gets most of its funding from private sources but received nearly $18 million from the federal government this year.
In public statements and testimony to Congress this week, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos defended the proposed cuts, arguing the Special Olympics could make up the funds through charitable donations.
"The Special Olympics is not a federal program," she said in a statement Wednesday. "It's a private organization. Because of its important work, it is able to raise more than $100 million every year. There are dozens of worthy nonprofits that support students and adults with disabilities that don't get a dime of federal grant money."
DeVos' defense of the cutsfrom Democratic members of Congress. Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of California called the plan "appalling" during a hearing on Tuesday. At another hearing on Thursday, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said "whoever came up with that idea ... gets a Special Olympic gold medal for insensitivity."
In a statement soon after Mr. Trump's comments on Thursday, DeVos said she was "pleased and grateful the president and I see eye-to-eye on this issue and that he has decided to fund our Special Olympics grant."
"This is funding I have fought for behind the scenes over the last several years," she said.
Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan, who had questioned DeVos about the number of children who would be affected by the cuts, said in a statement Thursday that "it shouldn't take public outcry and shaming to restore funding to one of our nation's most important special education programs."
"And by the way, can someone pull Betsy from under the bus?" he added.