Ava Seccuro staff writer
“You’ve got a cut to the [special education] department that’s a 12 percent agency cut, but you have a 15.6 percent increase in your executive salary appropriation.”
This contradictory phrase, stated by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) directed toward Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is the last thing we need to hear. Amid the chaos that presidential administrators exude and have perpetuated since their inauguration, the fact that DeVos is attempting to cut funding for special needs programs signals that political demons are no longer hiding themselves behind the White House’s walls.
As DeVos proposed cuts to the Special Olympics, the National Technical Institute for the Deaf and the American Printing House for the Blind, it’s questionable whether or not these cuts are even ethical, let alone necessary.
Out of the near $5 trillion that the federal government has for budgeting purposes, $8.5 billion is a drop in the bucket. That is how much money should be allocated to special education programs, but is not. In previous years, after each state has received an equal cut of money reserved for special education, 85 percent of those funds are doled out by states based on the number of children who are entitled to free appropriate public education (FAPE) through IDEA, and 15 percent of the remaining funds are allocated to children living in poverty who also qualify for FAPE. Considering that DeVos is now is attempting to cut over $20 million of funds for other special education programs, fewer and fewer children, who are not only legally deserving, but also ethically entitled to this monetary safety net, will get the short end of the stick.
The most infuriating part of this already despicable ordeal is the fact that DeVos is making reckless billion-dollar cuts to come to terms with the nation’s “current budget realities.” However, she is also concurrently proposing to create a $5 billion tax-credit program which would allow the use of public tax money for funding private and religiously affiliated schools. This does not add up, to say the least. It has made multiple lawmakers angry, including fervent Republicans such as John Kasich, and it should make you angry too.
It’s appalling to think that our government has and will use their already gratuitously powerful authority to stack the odds in their favor, but at the same time, it isn’t surprising. What’s surprising is the fact that DeVos claims that her budget cuts reflect commitment to protect disabled youth.
In a meager, shoddy and almost haphazardly written statement, DeVos addresses the backlash from her cuts saying, “Make no mistake: we are focused every day on raising expectations and improving outcomes for…youth with disabilities, and are committed to confronting and addressing anything that stands in the way of their success.”
This is just laughable. White House administrators, especially DeVos, have proven time and time again that they don’t care for the wellbeing of anyone who stands lower than the upper 10 percent, let alone minorities. DeVos’s address further solidifies any looming thoughts of her insincerity and her obsession with how she is perceived. Her pathetic attempt to fend off her contemporaries, or at least those who have a soul, has completely disintegrated the already withering faith many have in our democracy.
She mentioned another egregious excuse for her budget cuts: “The Special Olympics is not a federal program. It’s a private organization. I love its work…But given our current budget realities, the federal government cannot fund every worthy program, particularly ones that enjoy robust support from private donations.” DeVos said.
Which “budget realities” do we need to come to terms with? Dealing with our diluted funds from paying for construction of an absurd wall to conceal xenophobia, or saving up a slush fund for President Trump and other administrators to circumvent the consequences of graft? Surely, the $17.6 million used to fund the Special Olympics will barely make a dent in the debt and reparations that our government owes.
Unlike most campaigns against political injustice, there is something more that we can do other than simply voting these charlatans out of office. Since DeVos claims that the Special Olympics and many other special education programs like it are private organizations, undeserving of the federal government’s “precious” funds, donate your own money to these organizations. Although the majority of us are in high school and don’t have the fiscal means to necessarily make a large contribution, the matter of fact is, we live in one of the most affluent areas in the country. The money is present whether we as high schoolers possess it or not. Take the words out of DeVos’s mouth and take matters into your own hands to keep these “private organizations” afloat. It’s a shame we have to do the government’s job, but it isn’t surprising.
The indescribable hypocrisy that serves as the guiding principle for White House administrators becomes more apparent with each passing day. These cuts divulge the already conspicuous financial motivations of not only DeVos, but also expose the contentment of bystanding politicians. Their ambivalence with this predicament is almost as dangerous as the problem itself, and if we don’t take a stand, it may become even worse.