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Spending cuts pose threat to Special Olympics

Posted at 6:26 PM, Mar 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-27 21:48:58-04

PHOENIX, AZ — Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is under fire for proposing cuts - not only to key funding programs - but $18 million for the Special Olympics.

When Mark Jacoby, Gomper's President and CEO, heard about the proposal, he said he was disappointed and angry.

The Gomper Gators, as they're called, play in the Special Olympics - everything from basketball, volleyball, golf, and even powerlifting. The program is designed for people with intellectual and physical disabilities.

"To me, the great thing about the Special Olympics program is not the sports, it's the things that you get from playing the sports," said Jacoby.

Jacoby said of the 500 adults and children they serve, more than 100 are involved in sports.

"We as a nation need to figure out what our mission is and what our values are and where we come from," said Jacoby. "To say that it's not important from a federal standpoint or from a national standpoint, that's crushing."

DeVos struggled on Capitol Hill to answer a barrage of questions and at times, she was scolded for what's being called the deepest cuts in education spending in 40 years.

"You have zeroed out Special Olympics once again," said Rep. Barbara Lee (D) of California. "I still can't understand why you would go after disabled children."

For Gompers, they're hoping the cuts don't happen. In the meantime, they're raising money to buy new uniforms that will be worn in Special Olympic games.

In a statement, Special Olympics Arizona said, "We ask federal, state and local governments to join Special Olympics in remaining vigilant against any erosion of provisions that have made a substantial difference in the lives of people with intellectual disabilities.