It was another hard day on the Hill today for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
Testifying before a House Appropriations subcommittee, she had to defend the Trump administration’s cuts to federal spending on education for the third year in a row.
The Chairman of the committee, Democratic Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, began today’s hearing by noting that the administration has proposed the largest cuts to education funding in the forty years since the Education Department was created in 1979.
“Madam Secretary, I have to say, and maybe it’s offensive: Shame on you,” DeLauro said, according to CNN.
There are $7 billion in proposed cuts to education, including removing all $18 million in federal funding for the Special Olympics, as well as significant cuts to special needs programs.
That drew the ire of Democratic Representative Mark Pocan, who grilled DeVos for not knowing the number of kids that would be affected — 272,000 — by eliminating federal funding for the program.
When she responded that she believes the Special Olympics to be an “awesome organization that is well supported by the philanthropic sector,” Pocan interrupted to point out the proposed budget’s 26 percent reduction in state grants for special education and millions of dollars in cuts to programs for students who are blind.
“What is it that we have a problem with, with children who are in special education?” asked Pocan, who has two nephews with autism according to NBC.
In @BetsyDeVosED’s budget, there are major cuts to programs like the Special Olympics. Sec. DeVos didn’t know the number of kids who would be hurt by that cut, so I made sure she now knows that 272,000 kids are seeing their support taken away. pic.twitter.com/6ZiOfDU4Ou— Rep. Mark Pocan (@repmarkpocan) March 26, 2019
Lawmakers have rejected the previous efforts by the Trump Administration to cut education spending, voting to increase the Education Department’s budget the past two years for programs that help students with learning disabilities, according to the National Center for Learning Disabilities.
DeVos’ proposed 12 percent decrease in total funding for 2020 has even less of a chance of being adopted this year due to the Democrats’ control of the House.
Today, I’m testifying to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health, & Human Services on @POTUS’s FY 2020 Budget – a budget that puts the needs of students, parents, teachers & local leaders first. Watch live here: https://t.co/q6woA37uPE— Betsy DeVos (@BetsyDeVosED) March 26, 2019
It is the administration’s education priorities that are the source of conflict in Congress.
The new budget proposes to end a loan forgiveness program for public service workers, eliminate subsidized loans for low-income students, and cut about $2 billion in cuts to Pell Grants, according to CNN.
Republican ranking member Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma commended DeVos for her support for charter schools and for science, technology, math, and engineering (STEM) programs. The proposed budget request $5 billion in new funds for K-12 school choice tax credits known as Education Freedom Scholarships, that could be used for both private and public schools.