BOSTON (CBS/CNN) – Education Sec. Betsy DeVos appeared before a House subcommittee on Tuesday defending cuts in President Trump’s education budget. The proposal included an $18 million decrease in funds to the Special Olympics, though the Democratic-controlled House was highly critical of the plan.

Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy III said “This will never happen. Full stop,” in response to the proposed cuts. His great aunt, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founded the Special Olympics.

In a statement, Special Olympics Massachusetts said the group is a nonpartisan organization.

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). As is the case each year after the President presents his budget to Congress, we engage in opportunities, such as our annual Capitol Hill Day activities, to educate lawmakers about why grant funding for our health and education programming is critical to protecting and increasing access to these services for people with intellectual disabilities. We look forward to continuing to raise awareness among U.S. government officials about the important work that Special Olympics doing in the United States and around the world.

This is the third year in a row Democrats have criticized DeVos for proposing to cut funds from Special Olympics, after-school programs and support for students from low-income families. This time, however, Democrats control the House.

“The three education budgets from this administration have proposed the largest cuts to education funding in four decades. That’s since the department was created in 1979,” said Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, who chairs the Appropriations Committee’s Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee, at a hearing on DeVos’ proposed 2020 budget.

“Madam Secretary, I have to say, and maybe it’s offensive: Shame on you,” DeLauro said.

Overall, DeVos proposed a 12% decrease in funding for her department for fiscal year 2020.

Lawmakers have rejected the Trump administration’s previous efforts, increasing the Education Department budget instead, even when Republicans controlled both the Senate and House.

DeVos’ suggestion to cut funding from Special Olympic events at schools has repeatedly gotten attention from lawmakers.

“We had to make some difficult decisions with this budget,” DeVos responded when asked about the proposal by Rep. Mark Pocan, a Wisconsin Democrat, who said that more than 270,000 children benefit from those programs.

“I think the Special Olympics is an awesome organization, one that is supported by the philanthropic sector as well,” she said.

DeVos has personally supported the group. After proposing to cut the funding in her first budget, she announced that she would donate part of her salary to the organization. A spokeswoman confirmed Tuesday that the secretary made the donation last year and added that DeVos is “personally supportive of Special Olympics and its mission.”

The proposed budget maintains the same level of funding for core special education programs, including grants to states under the department’s Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. CNN contributed to this report.)


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