Arts program a Congressional casualty?

An arts program for people with disabilities created by Jean Kennedy Smith, sister of President John F. Kennedy, is facing severe budget cuts amid Congress’ debt reduction plans.

In the upcoming fiscal year, VSA, run through Washington’s Kennedy Center, is expected to receive about a third of the $9 million in federal funding it received this past year, according to an article in the Washington Post. In mid-July, the Kennedy Center trimmed VSA’s Washington-based office staff from 35 members to seven.

This is a photograph of a red stage curtain
Performing Arts News

“The Kennedy Center has essentially signed the death warrant for VSA,” said Scott Stoner, who served as VSA’s vice president for education services until he was laid off along with most of his colleagues July 15, in the article. “It will no longer be a leading international arts organization, and they understand that.”

VSA, formerly known as Very Special Arts, was founded in 1974. It provides training and education programs that reach some 276,000 students in 43 states and 52 countries.

VSA affiliate members that used to receive as much as $80,000 in grants now will receive a maximum of $25,000.

“It’s a very big blow,” said Judith Chalmer, executive director of VSA Vermont and chair of the VSA’s national affiliate council, in the article. “We’re enormously sad about the loss of resources on the national level.”

On average, the state affiliates receive about $7 in matching for every $1 of federal funding.

Congress is on track to cut about $1.2 billion overall from the Education Department this year.