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$17.6 million cut to Special Olympics, how it would affect Minnesota athletes
Parents and athletes concerned cuts would eliminate opportunities and competitions.
Author: Gordon Severson
Published: 5:36 PM CDT March 27, 2019
Updated: 5:50 PM CDT March 27, 2019
MINNEAPOLIS — A lot of people are fired up on social media about a proposal from our country's education secretary that would cut all federal funding for the Special Olympics.
The Special Olympics is the world's largest sports organization for people with intellectual and physical disabilities.

Last year, the Special Olympics received $17.6 million from the Education Department, but education secretary Betsy DeVos says it should be supported instead through philanthropy.

So, the question now is, how much of the overall Special Olympics budget is coming from the Federal government and what would the proposed cuts mean for Minnesota?

Here’s what we found out.

Federal money makes up about 10% of the Special Olympics budget, according to the group’s 2017 numbers.

So, the group isn’t going anywhere. Organizers say private donations and sponsorships make up most of the group’s budget.

So, athletes would still be able to compete, but new groups that want to get started may have a tougher time without this federal money.

Here’s why.
The $17.6 million in the Education Department budget was set aside for the Special Olympics to grow and create new programs in schools.

"It's really looked at as just seed money,” Special Olympics Minnesota CEO Dave Dorn says.

That “seed money” can be used by schools to set up new clubs and teams for students.

“But before they get that money they have to match it with three, four or five times that with corporate partners,” Dorn says.

The money, Dorn says, was mostly set aside to help schools “get the ball rolling.” Eventually these schools would have to find outside funding to keep their programs going.

“In Minnesota our school initiative is growing like gangbusters and to get it started that money was very instrumental for us,” Dorn explains. “If that money goes away, absolutely, it will be a hit to us, but it won’t stop our momentum.”

Dorn says nationwide the federal money accounts for about 10% of the Special Olympics budget overall, but when it comes to the Minnesota chapter’s budget, Dorn says it’s less than 2%.

“It’s a very small percentage. We’re really lucky with the amount of support we have from our partners,” Dorn says.

So, even if the cuts happen, Dorn feels Minnesota should be able to take it without cutting any programs, but other states might not be as lucky.

"For those other states that are maybe not as far along or are just getting started it's going to be much more impactful,” Dorn says.