Secretary of Education (and champion of no education) Betsy DeVos is proposing to completely eliminate all $18 million of government funding for Special Olympics and then pump $60 million into Charter schools.
At the same time, the Trump administration is trying to completely eliminate the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) and slash Social Security.
This affects us in the disability community by:
1. Charter Schools Discriminate
One thing a lot of people are not aware of is that Charter schools do not have to take kids with disabilities. They run along similar lines as private schools (which also do not have to take kids with disabilities).
The IDEA (see below) is the law upon which IEP’s are built. It makes sure that our kids (and ourselves) get what they are entitled to: a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment.
The IDEA is behind all public schools, but even though Charter schools run on public funds, they operate with private rules.
If a Charter school does not see a child with a disability as a good fit, they do not have to accept them. Furthermore. Charter schools do not need to follow an Individual Education Plan (IEP)!
2. Eliminating the Affordable Care Act
One of the greatest things that the ACA has done for our disability community is NOT discriminate based on pre-existing conditions.
That means that we won’t be denied health insurance because we already have a disability.
The Trump administration wants to completely eliminate the ACA and replace it with nothing. The only thing left on the table if the ACA is gone will be private health insurance, which as we all know, is exclusive, won’t accept people with preexisting conditions and will only kick in after we’ve made massive co-pays.
3. The Safety Net is Being Burned
Massive cuts are being proposed to Social Security – read about them here on the Consortium of Citizens with Disabilities.
The bottom line with all of the cuts is that Trump’s proposed 2019 budget cuts over $83 billion in Social Security spending over 10 years, including over $70 billion in cuts to Social Security and SSI disability benefits.
Social Security is our national safety net, protecting our most vulnerable: the elderly, children and people with disabilities who need it. Cuts such as what the Trump administration are proposing are not simply making lives less easy; they can actually kill. People who receive Social Security benefits are already living below the poverty line; reducing what little they already have can literally threaten their lives.
The Focus on Special Olympics
The specific piece that the government funds that is being proposed to being cut is the Special Olympic’s unified sports program, which supports schools in integrating students with intellectual disabilities into their general sports programs. Read more about what is specifically being proposed here.
These programs are valuable and also beloved to the intellectually disabled community. They matter.
But Special Olympics receives over $400 million in private donations.
If the government does (as I doubt it even will) remove the $18 million that it is proposing to remove, Special Olympics will still exist. It will still have $400 million to operate on.
But if the government takes away the larger pieces here, the ACA and slashes to Social Security, these programs WILL NOT EXIST. There is nothing to replace them. There is no cushion of $400 million for Social Security or for the ACA.
What is Happening Here: Smokescreens & Divisions
Social Security and a healthcare system such as the ACA that is affordable and does not discriminate based on pre-existing conditions are obviously more important than school sports programs.
I don’t think I need to get into the why’s of that: we all know the safety net that Social Security is supposed to provide and healthcare is absolutely vital and when it comes down to it, is necessary for life.
But let’s not get fooled by what this administration is trying to do!
Consciously or intentionally or not, we are becoming divided into discussions on what is more important.
We are arguing all over social media on how Special Olympics is so awesome and how our kids were so positively impacted by it. We are posting about the pictures that Sara Weir of the NDSS took with Betsy DeVos, prizing photo opportunities over advocacy. We are talking about how much we need the ACA and/or Social Security but we are NOT uniting and absolutely demanding that none of these be cut!
WE DON’T NEED TO PICK AND CHOOSE
There is room for all.
We do not have to – and should not – cut Special Olympics. Nor should we cut Social Security or eliminate the ACA.
The budget of the United States of American does not need to be balanced on the backs of the poor or by slashing services, community or health.
The rich are currently enjoying tax breaks on their second homes!
Can we all please understand that when the Trump administration is threatening to cut things that we care deeply about and that we know are important to our health, life and community, WE DO NOT NEED TO CHOOSE.
We can instead realize that this stuff is happening to allow for those tax breaks on second homes.
We need to see this for what it is: a smokescreen that makes it harder for us to see what is really going on, and also a tactic to divide us so that we squabble over these bits and pieces of meal while they go ahead and slaughter the flock.
Editing this to add that Sara Weir of the NDSS has shown where her priorities are, time and again and those have never actually been with the people she supposed to be serving (remember this post about NDSS at the table? Yeah, well…). She should be held accountable for her actions.
This post is also not about saying that it’s okay to slash out the $18 million that the Special Olympics receives from the government: I’m saying that I think we should recognize what is going on here: we don’t need to talk about how Special Olympics needs to be saved and not pay attention to the drive to eliminate the ACA and slash Social Security.
Rather, I think we should work together to make sure NOTHING is cut, and to remember that while we are getting upset over Sara Weir and Special Olympics, all of this other stuff is quietly being put on the butchering block.
Meriah Nichols is a counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one on the spectrum). Deaf, and neurodiverse herself, she’s a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.