The president of Special Olympics Iowa says he’s trying to remain optimistic after U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos this week proposed $18 million in cuts to the national program.

John Kliegl says the funding in question is for the Unified Champion Schools program which is about ten-percent of the budget for Special Olympics Iowa. “Over the last two years, Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration have in their initial budget proposed cutting this $18 million,” Kliegl says, “but with the support of our congressional leaders in the state of Iowa, it has bipartisan support and it has always been added back into the budget.”

The program has a 50-year history of sponsoring a way for mentally-challenged youth and adults to compete in athletics. Kliegel says even if the budget is slashed for Unified Champion Schools, the overall program would continue, but he notes, he’s hopeful there will be no cuts. “In February, we went out to what we call Capital Hill Day in Washington D.C. and we spoke to all of our legislators at that time,” Kliegel says, “and they were all very supportive of that funding at that time.”

Kliegl says preparations are underway for the Special Olympics Iowa Summer Games to be held in Ames in late May over Memorial Day weekend.
“We’ll have almost 3,500 athletes competing at Iowa State that weekend,” Kliegl says. “Overall, we’re in all 99 counties and we have over 15,000 participants in Special Olympics.”

The event will run Thursday through Saturday of that holiday weekend.

(By Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City)