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Posts Tagged ‘funding equity’

President Trump’s Starving of USDOE Starts NOW!

March 29, 2017 Leave a comment

In a post yesterday I shared a list of vacancies that exist in key positions in the USDOE and suggested that this was not a bug but a feature. Yesterday’s Politico feed reinforced that notion in it’s lead section on the $3,000,000,000 cut the President is proposing for THIS fiscal year, which has five months left:

After proposing a $9.2 billion cut to the Education Department’s budget for next year, the President Donald Trump is now calling on Congress to slash nearly $3 billion in education funding for the remaining five months of this fiscal year, according to a document obtained by POLITICO. The White House on Friday sent House and Senate appropriators detailed instructions on how they should craft spending legislation to fund the federal government beyond April 28, when the current stopgap spending bill expires.

– The Trump proposal seeks cuts across many federal agencies, but calls for the deepest reductions at the Education Department. The administration proposes $1.3 billion in cuts from the Pell grant program’s surplus this year – on top of the $3.9 billion proposed cut for next fiscal year. The CBO estimates the program will operate with a $10.6 billion surplus next year, but advocates for student aid and Congressional Democrats have blasted efforts to “raid” the Pell surplus and direct that money outside of financial aid programs.

– The White House is seeking to slash in half Title II, Part A funding for the current year. The program helps boost teacher and principal quality through professional development and also funds efforts to reduce class sizes. “Funding is poorly targeted and supports practices that are not evidence-based,” the administration wrote in the document. Trump’s “skinny budget” for next fiscal year called for eliminating the $2.4 billion program entirely.

– Also on the chopping blockfor elimination this year: A $47 million program that provides grants to school districts and other organizations to support physical education programs and a $49 million competitive grant program that provides money for elementary and secretary school counseling. The White House is also proposing to nix a $152 million program to boost math and science instruction and a $189 million program called Striving Readers that provides competitive grants to states to improve literacy instruction. All of those programs were eliminated by the Every Student Succeeds Act, which created a new large state block grant for those types of support and enrichment activities. But that grant program isn’t currently funded under the continuing resolution.

– The Trump plan calls for reductions this year to other agencies that affect education: National Institutes of Health (3.8 percent cut); National Science Foundation (5 percent cut); NASA (nearly 1 percent cut); National Endowment for the Arts (10 percent cut); National Endowment for the Humanities (10 percent cut); and educational and cultural exchange programs at the State Department (23.7 percent cut).

– But the request for cuts – which would be absorbed by federal agencies between April 28 and Sept. 30 – could prove to be too little, too late from the White House, report POLITICO’s Helena Bottemiller Evich and Sarah Ferris. Top Congressional appropriators have indicated that they’re prepared to reject Trump’s calls to gut programs they deem important – and some have said the White House weigh in too late in the appropriations process to affect the outcome for the current fiscal year.

The last section indicates that the first portions might be a purely political ploy… but the first sections DO reinforce the intentions of the Trump administration to diminish programs that help the less affluent children and to slash programs in the arts. The federal role in public education in the Trump/GOP administration will be to funnel block grants to states to use as they choose… and the choice in many states will be to diminish taxes and not enhance equity.

Derrell Bradford’s Thoughtful Insights on the Benefits of Choice

March 29, 2017 Leave a comment

When I saw a link to an article in the pro-choice, pro-voucher publication The 74 that countered the compelling arguments advanced by NYTimes writer Nichole Hannah-Jones, I was tempted to skip it, believing it would be a shallow and infuriating screed that reinforced the often simplistic positions taken by writers on that website. After reading the article by Derrell Bradford, though, I find myself needing to re-frame and re-calibrate my opposition to choice… particularly in urban settings. And even more surprisingly, I found myself agreeing with Mr. Bradford’s argument in favor of choice that was derived from a quote by Rod Paige, George W. Bush’s appointee to Secretary of Education who launched the “choice” movement embedded in NCLB that ultimately led us to Betsy DeVos:

Former secretary of education Rod Paige once offered that the country’s public schools have two incredible powers. The first is mandatory attendance: you will go to school; and the second is mandatory assignment: you will go to this school.

And even though state constitutional language varies on the kind and caliber of education a child will receive under these edicts, what’s certain is this: When a public institution can conscript you into a school with a long track record of underperformance, the egalitarian spirit of education, available to all, paid for by taxpayers and free at the point of delivery, is not only not served, it is subverted. The moment the state and public schools can force you into something that will likely inhibit your ability to be free and equal in the future — as is the case with children of color in underperforming public schools — you don’t control them anymore.

As noted in many earlier posts, I have long believed that exclusionary zoning and the economic segregation that results from that practice are the root cause of inequality or opportunity and the primary reason that social mobility is thwarted. Equal opportunity is impossible in our current world where children born into a particular zip code benefit from well-funded schools attended by classmates whose parents have college degrees while other children are effectively penalized by being born into a different zip code where schools cannot be well-funded and their classmates are from less educated backgrounds.

From my perspective, there are two ways to work around this issue: one is to provide more funding to less affluent districts and the other is to eliminate attendance zones within districts and between districts.

Providing equitable funding would make certain that if you are required to attend this school in an under-resourced district you can be confident that it has the same resources as that school in a fully-resourced district.  But providing equitable funding would require an increase in taxes and a redistribution of funds. Both of these are an anathema to voters who have been convinced that “throwing money” at schools is not the solution and it is “unfair” to ask those who worked hard for their earnings to “give money” to those who are “takers”.

Eliminating attendance zones between school districts and within school districts would also help eliminate the differences between this school and that school… but doing so would require a means of transporting students to the school of their choice and require some form of a lottery to ensure equitable opportunity. This poses a logistical challenge in all cases, a geographical challenge in some cases, and would result in diminished real estate values in those neighborhoods and communities where affluent residents live. In short, this, too, is unlikely to occur.

This unwillingness to pay more taxes or to allow mobility between and within districts led to the work around called “choice”. By abandoning the requirement that students are assigned to this school based on attendance zones or district boundaries, and creating “charter schools” that can draw from any part of the city or region, parents are able to enroll children in the “school of their choice”. Since the number of charter schools was limited, the schools themselves got the”choice” of students, and they often avoided choosing those children with special needs or those children whose parents failed to submit detailed paperwork. In other words, parents could only go to that school if they and their children passed muster… hardly the egalitarian model Rod Paige envisioned and hardly the egalitarian model The 74 suggests would emerge if schools competed with each other.

This “choice” workaround is based on the paradigm that “schooling” is a commodity and “schools” are enterprises that like shopping malls where consumers can go to whatever store they wish. And like that paradigm, the high-end shopping malls and grocery stores are used by the affluent while those without resources have no malls whatsoever and are forced to buy groceries from bodegas with limited elections.

In the end both Mr. Bradford and Ms. Hannah-Jones are engaged in fantastical thinking. Mr. Bradford believes that unregulated capitalism is inherently fair and there is virtue in selfishness. Ms. Hannah-Jones, like me, believes that in a democracy people will ultimately seek a solution that is fair to all, one that will require those with means to willingly share with those who have less opportunity due solely to accidents of birth. I hope the democracy minded voters will prevail.

 

President Trump’s Plan for Destroying “Failed” Programs and Departments

March 28, 2017 Leave a comment

Most presidents want to build things to leave a legacy. But from what I’ve witnessed thus far, it is evident that Donald Trump wants to destroy the government as we’ve known it and, in it’s wake, destroy democracy as well. A post published by Diance Ravtich on the vacancies in the US Department of Education positions reinforced this notion. In the post, she draws from fellow blogger Laura Chapman’s post enumerating the positions filled thus far, which are far down on the organization chart, and those that remain vacant, which are key assignments that require an ethics review. Dianne Ravitch summarize the filled vacancies in one blistering sentence: “All of the appointments to date are political cronies of Trump or DeVos.” And Ms. Chapman offers this list of positions that are unfilled:

Deputy Secretary
Under Secretary
General Counsel, Office of the General Counsel

Assistant Deputy Secretary and Director, Office of English Language Acquisition
Assistant Deputy Secretary, Office of Innovation and Improvement

Assistant Secretary, Office for Civil Rights
Assistant Secretary, Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education
Assistant Secretary, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education
Assistant Secretary, Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs
Assistant Secretary, Office of Management
Assistant Secretary, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development
Assistant Secretary, Office of Postsecondary Education
Assistant Secretary, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services

Director, Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships
Director, Educational Technology
Director, Institute of Education Sciences
Director, International Affairs Office

Executive Director of the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education

Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans
Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans
Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Performance Improvement Officer

Ms. Chapman concludes this list with this observation:

On April 3, 2014 about twenty states will be submitting to USDE their ESSA compliance plans. I think these will probably be unopened and just sit “somewhere” because nobody seems to be in charge of Elementary and Secondary Education. These plans run 150 pages or more and are supposed to be “approved” by someone at USDE after they are thoroughly reviewed.

This slow filling of vacancies in the USDOE is a feature, not a bug…. and it is happening in every department Mr. Trump wants to eliminate or make small enough to drown in a bathtub. When State Department of Education officials are forced to wait for months to determine if their plans are approved the complaints about the ineffectiveness of the USDOE will mount and Mr. Trump will have “proof” that the Department of Education should be eliminated and education should be returned to the states where it belongs. He will also have “proof” that the need for regulations regarding the spending of block grants is unimportant which, in turn, makes any number of jobs in USDOE superfluous.

Moreover, Mr. Trump seems to be completely indifferent to public education, so USDOE seems like a good place to stick people who are wholly unqualified to lead. And as an added bonus, many of those appointees have a deep seated antipathy for public schools that will help them sabotage the efforts of a department supposedly committed to the improvement of public education. And if they do a terrible job they will help him “prove” that the USDOE is worthless!

BUT… at the same time, like every politician he spoke of disdainfully, Mr. Trump needs to reward those who did legwork to get him in office by giving them a job…. and like every CEO with an over-large ego he needs to reward sycophants as well….

Finally, this is not the only program that will suffer at the hands of intentionally incompetent leadership or understaffing. Watch what happens in the next few months with Obamacare… Mr. Trump will be making sure that it crashes and burns by underfunding HHS and keeping scores of positions open or filled with people who are opposed to programs they are “overseeing”. The same will be true in Energy, in Interior, and State Departments. In Mr. Trump’s administration, in every department except Defense and Homeland Security, “Small is Beautiful”.

Supreme Court Decides in Favor of Special Education Parent, Sets Stage for More Downshifting of Costs, Public School Budget Increases

March 25, 2017 Leave a comment

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court unanimously supported the parents of an autistic child who unilaterally withdrew their child from school and sought tuition reimbursement. In what will surely become a landmark case for public education, Politico writer Caitlin Emma reported that the judges all concurred that “school districts must go the extra mile to accommodate students with disabilities“, overturning the 1982 Supreme Court ruling that individualized education plans must provide “some educational benefit”. Ms. Emma offered some details on the Chief Justice Roberts’ written decision:

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court that a “child’s education program must be appropriately ambitious in light of his circumstances, just as advancement from grade to grade is appropriately ambitious for most children in the regular classroom.”

“The goals may differ, but every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives. This standard is more demanding than the ‘merely more than de minimis’ test applied by the Tenth Circuit.”

Roberts declined to interpret that FAPE provision or elaborate on “appropriate” — “mindful that Congress has not materially changed the statutory definition of a FAPE since Rowley was decided.”

But he said the requirement must be “an educational program reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.”

During the years I served as a school administrator I witnessed the advent of PL 94-142 and subsequent court fights over what the term “Free and Appropriate Education” (FAPE) meant. At the same time I heard endless excuses from the US Congress as to why they could not find the promised funding necessary for schools to implement the laws and regulations that mandated FAPE. In 1982, when the Rowley case was decided, districts had some degree of clarity on what they were required to provide to students with special needs: they needed to demonstrate that a child was receiving some educational benefit from the IEP developed in team meetings with parents. Because this was a low bar, over the years many parents pushed to change this standard, to no avail until the Endrew v. Douglas County case decided on Wednesday.

The consequences of this decision will take some time to work their way through the system. Students’ IEPs are reviewed annually and many 2017-18 plans are already adopted. It will take time for parent advocacy networks to gear up and time for school district attorneys to get a clear picture of what this will mean for the development of future IEPs. The budgetary and educational impacts of this bill will likely occur in 2018-19 onward, but here are three budgetary predictions I will offer:

  1. The Federal government is more likely to change the definition of FAPE than it is to provide the 40% funding promised when 94-142 was passed: Given the budget presented by President Trump in accordance with the GOP platform, I do not see any possibility of an increase in funding for Special Education. Indeed, given the broad outlines of the budget thus far, it is more likely that the current budget will be frozen or possibly diminished.
  2. The State budgets for the coming year will not include additional funding to help underwrite the costs district will incur: Given that the GOP controls 35 of the States and they are universally intent on containing taxes and spending, it is unlikely that they will find room in their future budgets to accommodate the additional spending that will inevitably result from this decision. Moreover, given the nascent movement that directs more state funds toward de-regulated charters, homeschool students, or students enrolled in sectarian schools, the pool of funds available for public schools is likely to diminish without the additional burden of providing expanded programs for special needs students.
  3. Local budgets will be required to absorb all of the budgetary impact that results from this decision: If, as a result of this decision, more students are placed in specialized programs like the one Endrew sought, their tuition costs will accelerate and local taxes will increase or programs will be compromised. If, as a result of this decision, districts decide to independently or collaboratively develop specialized programs, the additional costs for those programs will be drawn from local taxes or programs will be compromised.

Given those budgetary predictions and the impact of the State’s movement that allocates more funds for parents whose children attend de-regulated charters, are homeschooled, or enrolled in sectarian schools, the diminishment of funds and resultant diminishment of offerings for regular education students will likely result in flight from public schools.

There will be exceptions to this flight from public education, however. Affluent communities who value their schools and want the best for all students enrolled in the schools and already pay higher taxes may not experience higher costs. Many of these districts are already providing programs for special needs children that are, in Judge Robert’s words,  “…reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.”  Districts offering programs that already meet this standard will not feel the same pressures as districts who strictly adhered to the de minimus standard set by Rowley. Those districts, whose barrier to entry is the need to qualify for a mortgage on an expensive home, will continue to thrive.

The districts who will suffer the most and experience the most flight will be those with limited tax bases who serve low income children. As costs are shifted downward and mandates for special education and costs escalate, their budgets will become increasingly tight and they will be forced to cut programs. As programs diminish, the parents who are most engaged in their children’s education will withdraw and the district will be serving the most difficult population: children raised in poverty whose parents are also struggling.

I do believe the Supreme Court did the right thing in this case. I wholeheartedly concur with Judge Roberts’ assertion that a child’s education program must be appropriately ambitious in light of his circumstances”. My fear is that while the courts will continue to rule in favor of children and parents, the legislature will continue to shirk it’s responsibility to provide the means for ALL districts to provide an appropriately ambitious program for ALL children. I would love to be proven wrong.

 

Thomas Edsall Describes the Vicious Circle of Poverty, Fails to Describe the Best Way Out

March 24, 2017 Leave a comment

In his NYTimes column yesterday, Thomas Edsall offered an insightful and thorough description of the vicious circle of poverty with graphs, research citations, raw data, and paragraphs like this that summarize his findings:

The result is a vicious circle: family disruption perpetuates disadvantage by creating barriers to the development of cognitive and noncognitive skills, which in turn sharply reduces access to college. The lack of higher education decreases life chances, including the likelihood of achieving adequate material resources and a stable family structure for the next generation.

The factors that contribute to “family disruption” are being born to a single parent, being born to a mother who lacks a high school degree, and being born into a household that is below the poverty line.  Mr. Edsall offers evidence that those factors are increasing substantially among less educated populous, noting particularly the non marital birthrate which has jumped among mothers with a high school education level or less but remained steady among college educated parents. This circumstance of birth, in turn, leads to better lives for children born into college-educated married families:

The authors of the “Diverging Patterns” paper — Shelly Lundberg and Jenna Stearns of the University of California-Santa Barbara, and Robert A. Pollak of Washington University in St. Louis – make the case that

there are good reasons to think that children are key to the socioeconomic differences in marriage behavior.

For college graduates, they argue, “marriage has become the commitment device that supports intensive joint investments in children,” a cooperative “joint project of raising economically successful children.” In contrast, they write,

the expected returns to child investments by parents with limited resources and uncertain futures may be lower than for more educated parents with greater and more secure investment capabilities.

At the conclusion of his article, Mr. Edsall draws a series of conclusions, which are summarized below:

First, the spectrum of noncognitive skills and character strengths are a major factor in American class stratification.

Second, neither religious leaders nor practicing politicians nor government employees have found the levers that actually make disadvantaged families more durable or functional.

For liberals and the Democratic Party, the continued failure of government initiatives to achieve measurable gains in the acquisition of valuable noncognitive skills by disadvantaged youngsters constitutes a major liability.

Advocates for the disadvantaged must also highlight and capitalize on the many demonstrably effective antipoverty solutions already well known to the academic, research and nonprofit communities. Without better funded and better crafted organization and advocacy on behalf of the poor, the propaganda and accusations now emanating from the right will ineluctably reshape the law of the land — and once institutionalized, such “remedies” could prove staggeringly difficult to reverse.

For public schools, these translate into the following action steps:

  • Schools need to emphasize noncognitive skills and character strengths. These have long been a part of the “hidden curriculum” that is implicit in codes of conduct and the timely submission of homework, term papers, etc.
  • Schools need to work collaboratively with religious leaders, practicing politicians, and other government employees to identify intervention strategies that have promise. This is easier said than done in the hostile environment that exists today where much of the political capital is spent on shifting the blame and most of the agencies expend much of their efforts fighting for increasingly scarce tax dollars.
  • The media need to emphasize the pointlessness of gathering data that measures “non cognitive skills”. If the public and politicians have learned anything from the “school reform” movement it should be thiscollecting data for the purpose of “measuring performance” of groups of students is pointless and will always lead to the same result. Whenever time is a fixed part of the measurement of anything (e.g. by the time a student enters “x” grade or is “y” years old), the students who have the strongest start in life— in the development of cognitive and non cognitive skills— will always do better. As noted in earlier posts, when I began my career as a public school administrator in the mid-1970s the state of Pennsylvania administered a test to all students and determined that there was a high correlation between test scores and a mother’s education and father’s occupation based on a metric that scaled work from professional careers to laborers. Mr. Edsall breathlessly reported the same findings— forty years later.
  • Intervention programs need to begin MUCH earlier: It is clear that nurturance is crucially important for both the acquisition of non cognitive and cognitive skills. It is also clear that mothers who were not raised in an environment where nurturance was present are challenged to provide that kind of environment without support.
  • Only government programs can provide those programs. That is “Government is the solution, NOT the problem”. Mr. Edsall is correct in his final point: “Advocates for the disadvantaged must also highlight and capitalize on the many demonstrably effective antipoverty solutions already well known to the academic, research and nonprofit communities.” And here’s my hunch: when those advocates highlight the successful programs they will find that the only way to bring those programs to scale is to provide money raised through taxes to make them government programs. As noted frequently in this blog, before we can restore our faith in the ability of anyone to climb out of poverty we need to restore our faith in the ability of government to provide programs for those in poverty. We need to recognize that part of being a citizen in this country is to help those in need and share the fruits of our good fortune.

 

School Choice in Iowa, a Preview of Other States, Hitting Some Bumps

March 21, 2017 Leave a comment

Today’s NYTimes features an extended article by Dana Goldstein profiling the problems the Iowa legislature is wrestling with as it tries to expand its system of vouchers, a system that is a preview of where other states are attempting to move and a precursor to the kind of system Betsy DeVos is advocating for all public schools. As Goldstein writes, the problems aren’t coming from just public school advocates:

Despite Republican control of the governor’s mansion and both houses of the State Legislature, proposals to significantly expand school choice programs in Iowa are stalled, at least for now. The pushback has come from groups traditionally opposed to the idea — Democrats, school districts, teachers’ unions and parents committed to public schools — but also from some conservatives concerned about the cost to the state.

Fiscal conservatives have long been more concerned with taxes than with the well being of children and the disadvantaged students. But in Iowa, it is evident that fiscal conservatives and religious conservatives are in different camps and when the price tag for publicly funded private schools increased the fiscal conservatives aligned with the pro-public school groups. As a result, many of the bills that would increase choice and/or increase funding for “Education Savings Accounts” are stalled in both houses of the state legislature.

There is one ray of hope in Iowa, though. The head of the religious school profiled in the Times article expressed some misgivings about the impact Education Savings Accounts was having on the disadvantaged children in his state.

Mr. Te Grotenhuis (the head of the Christian school profiled in the article) hopes that more low-income families in Pella will choose his school if one of the education savings account proposals becomes law.

But opposition from his counterparts in the public system gave him pause. “If we start E.S.A.s and cause a negative impact on the public schools, I wouldn’t support that,” he said, referring to the education savings accounts. “It comes down to ‘love thy neighbor.’”

Maybe Mr. Te Grotenhuis can influence one of his legislators to think the same way. If that happens, we may see religious schools refusing to accept any state funds in the future.

Penn Economist Demonstrates NYTimes Op Ed Contributors Flawed Arithmetic, But Misses One Key Point

March 20, 2017 Leave a comment

In a March 16 post to RegBlog, University of Pennsylvania Economist Adam Finkel takes his University of Chicago colleague Deirdre Mccluskey to task for her flawed math in an op ed piece she wrote for the NYTimes. In the op ed essay published on December 23, Ms. McCloskey asserted that

“[a]s a matter of arithmetic, expropriating the rich to give to the poor does not uplift the poor very much. If we took every dime from the top 20 percent of the income distribution and gave it to the bottom 80 percent, the bottom folk would be only 25 percent better off.”

As Mr. Finkel pointed out in this post (and to the NYTimes editors), this would only be true if EVERYONE started with the same level of wealth… and in our country that is clearly NOT the case. Indeed, instead of using Ms. McCloskey’s assumption that everyone has equal wealth of $500,000, Mr. Finkel used some real world numbers to calculate the impact of redistribution:

In the real United States, however—where $500,000 is indeed a reasonable estimate of the average individual networth, but where the top 20 percent own 85 percent of all wealth—the math is very different. Among a representative sample of 1,000 Americans, there would be $425 million to redistribute among the bottom 800 people, who would each start with only $93,750.

When Mr. Finkel dissembles Ms. McCloskey’s argument further, however, he overlooks one key flaw in her thinking:

First, McCloskey asserts that once the poor have “a roof over their heads and enough to eat,” they have no further need for any of society’s accumulated wealth. Elsewhere, she claims that all progressives seek a “forced equality” that would require brain surgeons and taxi drivers to earn the same amount. The former assertion is callous, and the latter is a strawman: even the most repressive Communist regimes in history sought equality of opportunity—not equality of outcome. Surely, somewhere within the 99 percent of the ideological distribution between dystopian Darwinism and utopian equality-for-its-own-sake, there is room for fruitful discussion about whether we should favor some modest redistribution via a progressive tax code and social programs. But McCloskey’s caricature of both positions makes any compromise impossible.

This just in, Mr. Finkel: Ms. McCloskey’s assertion is more than callous. It completely overlooks the fact that in January 2015, 564,708 people were homeless on a given night in the United States. and 42,200,000 Americans lived in food insecure households, including 29,000,000 million adults and 13,100,00 million children. In all, 13 percent of households (or 15,800,000 million households) were food insecure. So by Ms. McCloskey’s logic, those lacking a roof over their heads and enough to eat, HAVE a further need for society’s accumulate wealth. 

The most discouraging part of Mr. Finkel’s article was this section:

Unfortunately, the basic mathematics of McCloskey’s claim are mangled. She may not prefer that we seek progressive tax and regulatory policies, but her claim that these policies do not “uplift the poor very much” is erroneous. That the Times has decided not to correct her error—even in the face of an email exchange in which the author herself acknowledged her mistake—may be an example of how tempting it is to ascribe black-and-white factual issues to the realm of “healthy controversy.”

We cannot hope to have a meaningful dialogue about redistribution until we face the unpleasant truths of homelessness and hunger… as well as some basic mathematical truths.