In response to the Department of Education’s budget proposal to eliminate federal support for Special Olympics education programs, Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18), John Katko (NY-24), and Joe Kennedy III (MA-04), led a bipartisan letter to the House Appropriations Committee requesting that the organization receive full federal funding. This week, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos defended the administration’s education budget which would end public support for Special Olympics programs at schools across the country. The letter was cosigned by over 60 members of Congress.

“Special Olympics ensures every student has the opportunity to reach their full potential,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “Congress must ensure federal funding to Special Olympics continues so they can continue their work to empower people with disabilities to share their gifts and skills with our community.”

“This is honestly not a hard call,” said Rep. Maloney. “There is broad bipartisan support for funding the Special Olympics because their critical education programs empower a new generation to unify the world and break down barriers in our schools and communities.”

“Every American should have the opportunity to experience the joys of sports and lead a healthy lifestyle.  Sports and physical activity are essential to character development and learning to collaborate with peers,” said Rep. Katko. “Special Olympics education programs are critical to ensuring Americans of all abilities have access to these opportunities, and serve as a mechanism for creating more inclusive environments across the country. I strongly support fully funding Special Olympics education programs.”                                                                                                                

“The Special Olympics is about a simple, bedrock value of our country: everyone counts,” said Rep. Kennedy. “Anyone who has ever seen the smile of an athlete, the dedication of a coach and the embrace of a community knows that their value goes well beyond any number in a line item.  I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress, on both sides of the aisle, to make sure that we continue to celebrate those champions.”

In a letter sent to the House Appropriations Committee today, members requested the committee appropriate the fully authorized funding level of $17.6 million for these programs.

The text of the letter is below.

Dear Chairwoman DeLauro and Ranking Member Cole:

As you consider the Fiscal Year 2020 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, we respectfully urge you to fully fund Special Olympics education programs to the authorized level of $17.6 million.

Since its founding in 1968, Special Olympics has fought for rights and acceptance for people with intellectual disabilities through sport.  Today, Special Olympics is a global movement of over 5.1 million athletes and 1.1 million volunteers working to create an inclusive world for all. With the help of authorizations under the Special Olympics Sport and Empowerment Act of 2004, Special Olympics introduced Unified Champion Schools to create inclusive school climates for students with and without disabilities.

Today, nearly 3 million young people participate in the 6,500 Unified Champion Schools across the United States. Roughly 272,000 students have the opportunity to participate in Unified Sports. With the help of federal funding, Special Olympics will reach 7,500 schools by the end of this school year, transforming school climates by reducing bullying and helping students, teachers and administrator create a community of acceptance and respect. 

We thank you for your support of these critical education programs for students with and without disabilities and we urge you to fully fund them in the Fiscal Year 2020 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill.