Category Archives: Special Olympics

Busting the meme about Betsy DeVos “defunding” the Special Olympics

If the above link doesn’t work, here’s the same info:

Special Olympics

There were lots of memes outraged by this proposal to “eliminate all $18 million in funding for the Special Olympics” but they don’t provide much context.

-The $18 million is not *all* Special Olympics funding, it’s just the portion that the federal government grants them. According to their 2017 income statement, the Special Olympics received $129 million in total revenue, the bulk from private and corporate donations. And their most valuable contribution, the help from millions of volunteers. Just $15.5M was from government grants, which apparently was slotted to rise to around $18M in FY 2019.

-Government grants make up less than 15% of their revenue. Still, a significant amount, but ironically in 2017 they ran an $18M surplus, meaning they would be completely solvent without federal funding, even absent increased donations to make up for it.

-The Special Olympics is a great program, but why does it need federal funding? More specifically, why does part of the Department of Education budget go to it? There are lots of worthy charities and organizations that do important and great work, but they are great in part because they are privately funded and held accountable by their donors to be efficient and focused.

-Government grants provide harmful incentives to private charities. They tend to become reliant on tax dollars as a guaranteed income stream (often increasing each year), have an incentive to lobby the government for more funds as special interest groups and begin to receive revenue that doesn’t hold them accountable by private donors.

-To put all of this in perspective, this was part of Betsy DeVos’s attempt to reduce spending by 10% in the Department of Education, a $7 billion cut. Total education spending on public elementary and secondary education in the US is $668 billion/yr. If you’ve ever wondered why government spending is out of control, witness the outrage when cuts even this small are proposed.

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