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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: Let's aim higher than DeVos

Jack O'Grady

Betsy DeVos is terrible at her job. She is not even vaguely qualified for her position and has run the Department of Education more like a morally bankrupt company than a functioning government institution. 

Proposing defunding the Special Olympics shows the exact kind of disregard for the value of education that DeVos has flaunted for so long. It’s so in-character and easy to despise that you forget that she doesn’t actually have the power to do what we were all so vehemently against her doing and has instead just been defending the budget pushed down by the White House. So rather than railing against DeVos, I want to direct this column against the administration that actually tried to defund the Special Olympics and then changed their mind when someone else was poised to take the blame.  

The Trump administration, which has proposed defunding the Special Olympics for the past two years, has built its budget around the easy ideology of thriftiness. Following this logic, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and the Office of Management and Budget have selected 29 education programs for cuts, including the Special Olympics, after-school programs for low-income students, and programs for gifted students.

Overall, the Trump administration would stand to cut 10 percent of the Department of Education’s budget. American families would lose essential funding that helps countless children afford meaningful educational opportunities. American teachers, who are already struggling, would lose even more critical support from a government that is making it increasingly clear that it has no interest in educating its populace. We would lose all that in favor of what? 

DeVos would tell you it’s in favor of “education freedom.” I don’t know how Trump and DeVos define freedom, but I don’t think there’s anything freeing about attacking an organization that gives disabled students a chance no one else does to compete together and improve themselves and their lives. There’s nothing freeing about gifted students losing the opportunity to learn at their own rate. The only freedom these budget cuts would be supplying is the ability for advantaged families to avoid having to learn with people different from themselves.  

That’s the bigger crisis we’ve been missing. It’s easy to slam DeVos, just like it’s easy for Trump to capitalize on that outrage and “override” his own platform for a convenient PR boost. Rather than handing him scapegoats, we should be continuing the pressure on the White House and Congress to make education a priority again. If this administration stood for anything resembling the freedom they tout, we wouldn’t have to beg them to care about disabled students. In the aftermath of all this outrage, let’s remember who the real enemy is and keep fighting for the freedoms his administration is so keen on stripping away. 

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