Proposed Special Olympics funding cuts could impact Texas

Education secretary Betsy Devos is defending her decision to cut nearly 18 million dollars to support Special Olympics.

At the same time, she urged Congress to spend millions of more dollars not on public education - but on charter schools. 

Devos testified before a House subcommittee to explain President Trump's spending priorities on Tuesday.

Jason Miller, executive director for the central region of Special Olympics Texas, seemed pretty optimistic on the phone Wednesday afternoon.

"It's not something that has a huge impact overall on Special Olympics Texas' ability to operate and provide opportunities for our athletes,” he says. "A lot of times people ask me when are the Special Olympics. Special Olympics is a year-round program. It's something that's going on at all times."

If approved, Miller says the cuts will be primarily felt in their Unified Champion Schools Initiative, a program that comes from Special Olympics International.

"Primarily in middle and high schools and elementary in Special Olympics terminology unified stands for any event where traditional students are participating alongside Special Olympics Texas athletes," Miller said. "So for example two special basketball players on the same team are Special Olympics athletes."

There's also unified art, theatre, cheerleading, and even unified ukulele.

Miller says funding that impacts Central Texas, is money that is used to provide Special Olympics programming for underserved communities through schools and districts.

“Most of our funds come from independent donations and sponsorships," Miller said.

Miller said a lot of the federal dollars are applied to specific programs, so the impact will most likely be felt at the school level.

"Being able to do unified sports provides a pathway to participation for traditional students as well," Miller said. "Not everybody can make the basketball team not everybody can make the football team but that interest can still be there."

Special Olympics released a statement and is asking everyone to help ensure federal funding continues for fiscal year 2020 by urging members of Congress to sign their "dear colleague" letter.