Area school districts participated in a Special Olympics Youth Summit on Wednesday, but according to a release from Special Olympics, events like the summit could face funding challenges without its federal funding.

The Trump Administration proposed to cut $17.6 million from the U.S. Department of Education’s fiscal 2020 budget, which eliminates funding for the Special Olympics Education programs.

President Donald Trump announced Thursday that he was backing off a budget request to eliminate funding for the Special Olympics after the proposed cut received days of criticism.

According to a report by the Associated Press, speaking to reporters as he left the White House for a rally in Michigan, Trump said he had authorized funding for the event. "I heard about it this morning. I have overridden my people. We're funding the Special Olympics."

Trump's announcement came after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos spent days defending the proposal, which drew widespread criticism from lawmakers, as well as advocates and celebrities. Even before the president stepped in, legislators said the cut was unlikely to be approved, the AP report read.

According to the report, Trump officials previously called for the elimination of Special Olympics funding in their budget proposal for 2019, but Congress rejected the idea. Lawmakers from both parties said they would reject it again for 2020.

DeVos shared a statement on Wednesday saying it was “counterproductive that the media and some members of Congress have spun up falsehoods and fully misrepresented the facts,” regarding the budget cut. "Make no mistake: we are focused every day on raising expectations and improving outcomes for infants and toddlers, children and youth with disabilities, and are committed to confronting and addressing anything that stands in the way of their success.”

According to DeVos’ statement, the proposed budget support the nation's 7 million students with disabilities through a $13.2 billion request for IDEA funding — the same funding level appropriated by Congress.

The budget also requests an additional $225.6 million for competitively awarded grants to support teacher preparation, research and technical assistance to support students with disabilities, she said.
"The Special Olympics is not a federal program. It's a private organization. I love its work, and I have personally supported its mission. Because of its important work, it is able to raise more than $100 million every year,” DeVos said in her statement. “There are dozens of worthy nonprofits that support students and adults with disabilities that don't get a dime of federal grant money.
“But given our current budget realities, the federal government cannot fund every worthy program, particularly ones that enjoy robust support from private donations."

The local summit is part of the Unified Champion schools program through the Special Olympics.
“Our Unified Champion Schools are shaping a generation of young people who will lead us into a future of inclusion,” Special Olympics International Chairman Dr. Timothy P. Shriver said in a release. “We are proud of our relationship with the Department of Education and their ten years of support on this work.”

Shriver on Wednesday pushed back against the proposed cut in the release. According to the release, three million young people participate in 6,500 Unified Champion programs across the country.
“These opportunities would not be available without this funding,” Shriver said.

For southeast Kansas, the program is just getting started. Students from Erie, Chetopa and Pittsburg school districts participated in the summit’s “leader training” on Wednesday at Greenbush Education Service Center to work on creating unified sports teams, Special Olympics Director of Grants and Development Erin Fletcher said at the event.

(Due to new information gained after press time, this story has been updated. The Associated Press contributed to this story.)