(WXYZ) — How would the proposed cuts to Special Olympics impact schools here in Michigan?
WXYZ reached out to Special Olympics of Michigan. It said if Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ proposal that her department eliminate all spending on Special Olympics were approved, it would impact about 250 schools state-wide, fifty of which are in Detroit.
The schools impacted all take part in what is called the Unified Sports Program, which is a program in public schools. It involves sports events that bring children with and without special needs together in competition. About a quarter of its funding, or approximately $200,000 in Michigan is from the federal government.
“They are learning this population is capable of more than anyone expected,” said Danielle Arnold, of what students learn from the program.
She says schools that take part see an improvement in culture and decrease in bullying.
Sarah Jardine is an adapted Physical Education teacher for students with autism in the Detroit Public Schools Community District. Right now the district receives about $75,000 to make these programs possible. She says a cut in funding would have a negative impact.
“We would lose vital programming for students with special needs in Detroit,” said Jardine.
When lawmakers criticized DeVos for the proposed cuts and asked how many students nationwide would be impacted she said the nation needs to spend fewer tax dollars.
“We had to make some difficult decisions in this budget,” she said.
Detroit Public Schools Community District Superintendent Nicolai Vitti said quote “This recommendation is unfortunately another example of the administration’s detachment from understanding and appreciating the beauty of traditional public education.”
DeVos has lobbied for an overall shrinking of the nation’s public education system and the implementation of a voucher program that would allow parents to send their children to private schools.
The proposed elimination of more than $17 million in funding for Special Olympics programs in public schools is part of a proposal that the Department of Education decrease spending by $7.1 billion.