March 27 (UPI) -- Education Secretary Betsy DeVos fought off attacks from Democrats over her budget recommendations to cut $18 million from the Special Olympics and other programs meant to help teachers and students while increasing funding for charter schools.
DeVos framed the cuts as necessary to offset measures from Congress to increase the federal education budget with programs that do not work.
"Since President Trump took office, Congressional appropriations for U.S. Department of Education programs have increased dramatically - in spite of the administration's call to slow spending," DeVos said in her opening statement before a House subcommittee Tuesday.
"We are not doing our children any favors when we borrow from their future in order to invest in systems and policies that are not yielding better results. Overwhelming federal debt may prove to be the single greatest barrier that future generations will face in trying to achieve the full potential of the American dream, and we cannot continue to kick that can down the road," she added.
But DeVos faced criticism over her suggested cuts. The Special Olympics -- started by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the sister of late President John F. Kennedy, in 1968 -- is particularly sensitive to some in Congress and has grown into a global organization for disabled children.
"Do you know how many kids are going to be affected by that cut?" U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., asked DeVos about her proposed $17.6 million cut in funding to the Special Olympics.
"What is it that we have a problem with, with children who are in special education?" he asked later.
DeVos argued that spending for disabled children remained steady in face of a budget that calls for an overall cut of 10 percent. She added that private companies have provided strong financial support for Special Olympics in the past.
U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., the subcommittee's chair, blasted the budget cuts as "cruel and reckless" with low-income families taking the brunt of the changes.
"How can you support this budget? I mean that genuinely," DeLauro said. "As secretary of the Department of Education, how can you support, even boast, about taking 10 percent ... away from our teachers and students?"