Education Opportunity Network

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9/13/2018 – Wealthy People Are Destroying Public Schools

THIS WEEK: #Red4Ed Continues … Educators Running For Office … If Dems Take Congress … Why College Is Expensive … Forces Behind Charter Schools

TOP STORY

Wealthy People Are Destroying Public Schools, One Donation At A Time

By Jeff Bryant

“Recent news stories about wealthy folks giving multi-million donations to education efforts have drawn both praise and criticism, but two new reports by public education advocacy groups this week are particularly revealing about the real impact rich people have on schools and how they’ve chosen to leverage their money to influence the system … Instead of attacking structural inequity in the system, something that would likely require the wealthy to pay more taxes, ‘they offer a light facsimile of change.'”
Read more …

NEWS AND VIEWS

Teacher Strikes Are Heating Up In More States

Education Week

“The momentum from the historic wave of statewide teacher strikes last spring seems set to continue this school year.… Teachers in more than a dozen districts in Washington state have gone on strike over contract negotiations. Teachers in Los Angeles … have overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike … And teachers in North Carolina … are weighing future collective actions this year … Educators across the country say they feel inspired by the teacher activism … And public opinion is on the teachers’ side: Two recent national polls found that Americans both are largely in favor of higher teacher pay and support teachers’ right to go on strike.”
Read more …

More Than 500 Teachers And Other Educators Are Running For Office This Year

Huffpost

“[The NEA] says it has a comprehensive tally of 2018 educators-turned-candidates for state house and senate seats: 554. That includes 512 running as Democrats and 42 as Republicans, the majority of them women. The analysis … includes members of both its own affiliates and those of the other main teachers’ union, the [AFT] … The 554 figure includes current and retired teachers, as well as administrators and support staff … The AFT has been tracking the number of its own members running for office this year, which is now just shy of 300. Most of those educators are running for state seats, though that figure also includes people running for boards of education and other local positions.”
Read more …

If Democrats Take The House, Here’s What Awaits Betsy DeVos, Civil Rights, And ESSA

Education Week

“If Democrats take control of the House of Representatives next year, expect civil rights to grab the spotlight and for congressional subpoenas in the name of education oversight to become more popular … Democrats have been scrapping with [Betsy[ DeVos and the U.S. Department of Education … The two sides have publicly squabbled over how she’s handled states’ Every Student Succeeds Act plans, her approach to Obama-era guidance on school discipline and transgender students, K-12 spending, her changes to civil rights investigations, and, most recently, whether schools could spend ESSA money to arm teachers … Civil rights is really the issue to watch … You can also expect a lot of oversight hearings in general, and in particular on higher education. And Democrats could be particularly interested in using subpoenas to draw out what they’ve said are conflicts of interest regarding DeVos’ higher education work.”
Read more …

Why Is College In America So Expensive?

The Atlantic

“Americans spend about $30,000 per student a year – nearly twice as much as the average developed country… Only one country spends more per student … A third of developed countries offer college free of charge to their citizens. And another third keep tuition very cheap – less than $2,400 a year … The vast majority of American college spending goes to routine educational operations – like paying staff and faculty … U.S. colleges spend, relative to other countries, a startling amount of money on their nonteaching staff … more on nonteaching staff than on teachers.”
Read more …

In Louisville, A Web Of Private Interests Conspire To Expand Charter Schools

The Progressive

Jeff Bryant writes, “Kentucky was, until recently, one of just a handful of states to not yet allow charter schools. Opposition to these schools in the state is intense and bipartisan … Charter proponents, nevertheless, have waged a campaign to push their schools, taking actions that challenge ethical, if not legal, boundaries. The list of actors promoting charters in the state includes not only politicians and private advocacy groups but also financial interests, especially in the real estate industry. And charter collaborators are operating behind the scenes to push their cause in backrooms deep in the corridors of influence and political power.”
Read more …

Wealthy People Are Destroying Public Schools, One Donation At A Time

Recent news stories about wealthy folks giving multi-million donations to education efforts have drawn both praise and criticism, but two new reports by public education advocacy groups this week are particularly revealing about the real impact rich people have on schools and how they’ve chosen to leverage their money to influence the system.

‘The Education Debt’

The first report, “Confronting the Education Debt” from the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools examines the nation’s “education debt” – the historic funding shortfall for school systems that educate black and brown children. The authors find that through a combination of multiple factors – including funding rollbacks, tax cuts, and diversions of public money to private entities – the schools educating the nation’s poorest children have been shorted billions in funding.

One funding source alone, the federal dollars owed to states for educating low-income children and children with disabilities, shorted schools $580 billion, between 2005 and 2017, in what the government is lawfully required to fund schools through the provisions of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

The impact of not fully funding Title I is startling, the report contends, calculating that at full funding, the nation’s highest-poverty schools could provide health and mental health services for every student including dental and vision services, and these schools would have the money to hire a full-time nurse, a full-time librarian, and either an additional full-time counselor or a full-time teaching assistant for every classroom.

State and local governments contribute to underfunding too by keeping in place tax systems that chronically short schools, particularly those that educate low-income students, mostly of color. Two school districts in Illinois are highlighted – one where 80 percent of students are low-income and gets about $7,808 per pupil in total expenditures, while another, where 3 percent of students are low-income, spends $26,074 per student.

The disparities were made worse after the Great Recession in 2008, when most states slashed taxes for funding schools and often gave bigger tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy, while many local governments rolled out tax abatement programs that exclude corporations and developers from paying taxes that fund public schools.

In the meantime, while the nation’s education debt expands, the accumulated wealth of the richest Americans continues to grow. During that time period the federal government was shorting schools billions, the personal net worth of the nation’s 400 wealthiest individuals grew by $1.57 trillion, the report notes.

“There is a direct correlation between dwindling resources for public schools and the ongoing political proclivity for transferring public dollars to the nation’s wealthiest individuals and corporations,” the report declares. “The rich are getting richer. Our schools are broke on purpose.”

While wealthier Americans are being increasingly unburdened of the expense of educating the nation’s children, many of those same individuals have decided to spend their dollars on education politics instead.

‘Hijacked by Billionaires’

In its report, “Hijacked by Billionaires: How the Super Rich Buy Elections to Undermine Public Schools,” the Network for Public Education examines state and local elections that affect education policy the most – such as school board, mayor, ballot referendums, state superintendent, and governor – and finds, “Some of America’s wealthiest individuals collaborate to hijack the democratic process by pouring millions of dollars into state and local races, often in places where they do not live.”

The report spotlights 9 case studies of state and local elections, accompanied by 10 interactive maps (two for Louisiana), that show the intricate networks of dark money activated by the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling and state election loopholes.

What motivates these wealthy people from exerting their will in the electoral process varies. They are bipartisan politically. Some are directly connected to the charter school industry. Others have expressed disdain for democratically controlled schools and argue, instead, for school governance to transfer to unelected boards. Some are motivated by their hatred of teachers’ unions. While others believe strongly that public education needs to be opened up to market competition from charters.

But what billionaire donors all have in common, the report authors write, is their devotion to blaming schools and educators for problems posed by educating low-income children. Instead of using their political donations to advocate for more direct aid to schools serving low-income kids, wealthy donors “distract us from policy changes that would really help children,” the report argues, “such as increasing the equity and adequacy of school funding, reducing class sizes, providing medical care and nutrition for students, and other specific efforts to meet the needs of children and families.”

Of course, those policy changes would require wealthier folks to pay more in taxes.

‘Predatory Elites’

“Rich people are playing a double game,” writes Anand Giridharadas in his new book Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World. “On one hand, there’s no question they’re giving away more money than has ever been given away in history … But I also argue that we have one of the more predatory elites in history, despite that philanthropy.”

In a recent interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep, Giridharadas derides the “win-win” game wealthy folks play, insisting they can keep their huge sums of money sequestered from taxation while donating for “social change that offers a kickback to the winners.”

Giridharadas accuses the nation’s billionaire class of “peddling a lot of pseudochange instead of actually fixing the American opportunity structure, instead of actually repairing the American dream over the last 30 to 40 years.”

Instead of attacking structural inequity in the system, something that would likely require the wealthy to pay more taxes, “they offer a light facsimile of change,” says Giridharadas. “They offer change that doesn’t change anything fundamental.”

Although Giridharadas doesn’t mention it in the interview (I’ve yet to read the book), nowhere is this charade played out by the wealthy more evident than in public education, where rich people have steered public policy to minimize their taxes, which would fund school programs and resources low-income kids really need, while they peddle false promises like charter schools.

“A move that America’s plutocrats have been making for a long time,” he argues, is that “the arsonists are the best firefighters.”

They’re certainly doing a good job of burning down public education.

9/6/2018 – Back-To-School Season Marred By Underfunding, Charter School Scandals

THIS WEEK: Why Teachers Walk Out … Teacher Pay Worsens … Solving Segregation … Suspensions’ Toll … Who Are College Students?

TOP STORY

Back-To-School Season Marred By Chronic Underfunding, Endless Charter School Scandals

By Jeff Bryant

“With a new school year starting across the nation, families, teachers, and communities may be feeling a sense of renewal and possibility, but much of the news from schools is still mired in negative reports of underfunded buildings, beleaguered teachers, and charter school corruption.”
Read more …

NEWS AND VIEWS

Activist Teachers Aren’t Just Fighting For Themselves. They’re Fighting For Their Students.

The Washington Post

“The wave of #RedForEd protests over the course of the past year … have continued into the new school year, as teachers went on strike in southwest Washington state and educators in Los Angeles and Seattle considered following suit. These educators are protesting not just for better pay, but also for increased funding for public education to benefit students and communities … Teachers have been forced to triage the symptoms of economic inequality. In addition to planning and providing academic instruction, teachers are often tasked with serving as social workers, counselors, nurses, food pantries, technology support specialists, accountants, facilities maintenance staff and janitors … Activist teachers have always faced charges that their organizing was selfish, hurt students, diminished learning or harmed taxpayers. But in reality, when teachers organize collectively, their advocacy for better teaching conditions has improved public education more broadly.”
Read more …

The Salary Slide: As Other Professionals See Growth, Teachers’ Pay Stagnates, New Report Finds

Chalkbeat

“Teachers now earn about 20% less than other college-educated workers … This teacher pay penalty has persisted and even grown modestly in recent years … It may be one reason why a majority of parents for the first time say they don’t want their children to become teachers … Low pay is also one of the chief drivers of recent teacher protests across the country … Even accounting for benefits, there remains a 11% pay penalty for teachers.”
Read more …

We Can Draw School Zones To Make Classrooms Less Segregated

Vox

“Once you look at the school attendance zones … it becomes clearer why these lines are drawn the way they are. Groups with political clout – mainly wealthier, whiter communities – have pushed policies that help white families live in heavily white areas and attend heavily white schools. We see this in city after city, state after state … often the attendance zones are gerrymandered to put white students in classrooms that are even whiter than the communities they live in. The result is that schools today are re-segregating… But this exact strategy – gerrymandering school districts to include certain kinds of students and exclude others – can also be used to integrate a school, rather than segregate them.”
Read more …

The Price Of Punishment – New Report Shows Students Nationwide Lost 11 Million School Days Due To Suspensions

EdSource

“Children in America’s public schools lost more than 11 million instructional days due to suspensions during the 2015-16 school year … Racial disparities in suspensions remain an acute problem. Nationwide, African-American students lost 66 days of instruction per 100 students enrolled in 2015-16, which is five times as many days as white students lost … ‘There are too many evidence-based alternatives to suspensions for there to be this level of educational deprivation … California has made great strides in this area and is a positive example for other states across the nation.'”
Read more …

Today’s College Students Aren’t Who You Think They Are

NPR

“That narrative of the residential, collegiate experience is way off … Today’s college student is decidedly nontraditional – and has been for a while. … 1 in 5 is at least 30 years old … About half are financially independent from their parents … 1 in 4 is caring for a child … 47% go to school part time at some point … A quarter take a year off before starting school … 2 out of 5 attend a two-year community college … 44% have parents who never completed a bachelor’s degree”
Read more …

Back-To-School Season Marred By Chronic Underfunding, Endless Charter School Scandals

Some of the most memorable education news stories from the 2017-18 school year were the photos spreading online virally showing Baltimore school children bundled up against the cold in unheated classrooms, the enormous outpourings of teachers walking out of schools and protesting at their state capitols, and the seemingly endless litany of scandals from the charter school industry coming from Arizona, California, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere.

With a new school year starting across the nation, families, teachers, and communities may be feeling a sense of renewal and possibility, but much of the news from schools is still mired in negative reports of underfunded buildings, beleaguered teachers, and charter school corruption.

Poor Conditions, Lack of Resources

Those Baltimore school children who endured freezing classrooms last winter? They’re back in the news again, only this time because their schools are too hot because they lack air conditioners. As a heatwave sent temperatures into the 90s, at least ten schools in the city and surrounding county had to close and sixty more were forced to dismiss early.

Baltimore wasn’t alone. Over 200 schools across Philadelphia dismissed at noon as heat indexes in non-airconditioned buildings climbed above 100 degrees. Dozens of New Jersey schools let out early due to lack of air conditioning. And schools across Ohio – from Cleveland to Columbus to Cincinnati – closed due to high temperatures in buildings with no air conditioning.

School funding in the Buckeye state hasn’t kept up with inflation for a decade, according to a new study.

Lack of air conditioning wasn’t the only problem in schools. Schools in Detroit that serve over 50,000 students had to shut off water fountains and taps due to high levels of lead and copper in the water.

Schools in multiple states are finding elevated lead levels, prompting them to tear out water fountains and faucets. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Indiana tested 915 schools in recent months and found that 61 percent had one or more fixtures with elevated lead levels. Schools in Colorado and Florida, among others, are taking steps to address lead in drinking water.”

For parents with children who suffer from asthma, a chronic shortage in the supply of epipens kept in schools has added to the widespread sense of crisis that increasingly accompany school reopenings.

Lack of basic supplies is another sign of the dire straits schools face, prompting teachers to either shell out more of their own money for learning materials or use crowd-funding sites at record-high levels to beg for cash.

Low Teacher Pay

The poor building conditions and lack of resources that spurred teachers in red states like Oklahoma and Arizona to walk off the job in the spring have become subjects in more recent news stories about how teachers are using their grievances to run for office and throw out lawmakers who refuse to fund public education.

In North Carolina, teachers are using the momentum from their brief walkout in the spring to stage townhalls across the state to push more school funding. The teachers are calling for class size reductions, up-to-date textbooks, and improved teacher pay.

The labor unrest that swept across schools in red states earlier this year has now reached blue states too, as teachers in Los Angles, the nation’s second-largest school district, and across the state of Washington have threatened to strike, or are on strike, over working conditions and poor pay.

Indeed, teachers across the nation continue to be among the lowest paid employees when compared to other comparably educated professions. According to a new study, teachers earn substantially less than other college-educated workers, and their status on the pay scale has worsened over time, from a differential of 4.3 percent less in 1996 to 18.7 percent less in 2017.

While the economy generally continues to recover since the Great Recession in 2008, the “pay gap” teachers experience continues to erode because of, the authors contend, “state policy decisions rather than the result of revenue challenges.”

Teacher pay is so bad, one in five teachers has to work a second job, and one in ten Airbnb hosts is a teacher.

More Money Would Help

Due to the continued erosion in teacher compensation, an increasing percentage of parents do not want their children to become teachers, according to a new nationwide poll. While Americans overwhelmingly say teachers deserve to be paid more, schools are under-funded, and they would be willing to be taxed more to fund schools, 54 percent say they would not want their child to become a public-school teacher, due mostly to the poor pay and benefits teachers earn.

The increased funding Americans want for education would not only improve school conditions and teacher pay, it would improve student achievement.

According to a new study, increases in per-student spending in New York led to higher math and reading scores on state tests.

The research, Chalkbeat reports, “is the latest evidence linking increased school spending to positive outcomes for students, including graduation rates, lifetime wages, and college attendance. State-level studies in California, Massachusetts, and Ohio have also found benefits of increased spending. On the flipside, Great Recession spending cuts appeared to have negative consequences on students.”

More Options Isn’t a Solution

Nevertheless, when pressed with the evidence of worsening conditions in schools and declining support for teachers, recent education policy decisions and legislation have increasingly emphasized creating “alternatives” to public schools rather than doing something to improve the ones we have.

Consequently, back-to-school reports in local news outlets occasionally feature glowing articles about new charter schools and online education providers. But on balance, the positive reports about these alternatives are outweighed by negative stories about what happens when these privately-operated schools, that lack most of the regulatory and statutory guidelines placed on public schools, are allowed to open and operate freely.

With school openings just are barely underway, there is already a lengthy scandal sheet of charter schools caught for committing acts that would never be allowed in a public institution.

A recent news story from Arizona tells about an online charter school in that state that invests 70 percent of the money it gets from the state on the stock market rather than on instruction. The same Arizona news outlet found another charter school that screens out special education students has a leader accused sexual harassment and not paying teachers. And a different Arizona news outlet caught a leader of a charter school bragging about using mass suspensions to improve the image of his school,

A report from Louisiana finds a CEO of a charter school chain in New Orleans employed her sister and son-in-law in the schools and contracted with her daughter as a paid consultant. The situation has become the subject a new law the state enacted, which had never before applied to charter schools. Louisiana has had charter schools for over 20 years.

A charter school in New Jersey became the subject of a widely shared Twitter thread when the school kicked out scores of black students for a minor dress code infraction. A youth advocate and recreational counselor found the children loitering in a local park, unable to attend school because their shoes weren’t an exact match to school guidelines that called for “all black” footwear.

Another New Jersey charter school caught a reporter’s attention after the school dismissed sexual harassment claims against an administrator but then paid a $90,000 settlement to the accuser. Another New Jersey charter school has become the subject of a lawsuit for its excessive discipline of students with disabilities.

And yet another New Jersey charter school operation that suddenly closed was found to have stuck the state with a $10 million loan the state is unable to collect because the development company associated with the school figured out a way to be legally free of any assets the state could collect on.

In Michigan an online charter has become a subject of scrutiny for faking its enrollment, and another charter is being questioned for why it allowed the school leader to splurge on $25,000 in gift cards for an “employee retention program” despite the school running up a $954,399 deficit last year and carrying a current fund balance under legal requirements.

In California, local officials question why a couple operating a charter school continues to draw salary for a year after they left the job and used the building for a political campaign. A reporter notes, “The school has already undergone a yearlong investigation in 2015 prompted by hundreds of complaints involving governance and transparency.”

Also in California, a news outlet reports a charter school that got over $30 million in tax-free bonds from the state to build new campus was suddenly closed by its district authorizer for lagging academics, a 23 percent dropout rate, and questionable financials. The school is connected to a mosque whose leader founded the charter and works for the school.

Further north, in Oakland, a former principal of a charter school admitted the school where he worked is connected to the Gulen religious movement from Turkey, led by an exiled recluse cleric living in Pennsylvania. Charter schools connected to the Gulen movement have been frequently accused of contracting with Gulen-associated companies and staffing schools with Turkish workers who kick back part of their paychecks to the movement.

In Ohio, a charter school operator is being investigated for setting up over 150 shell companies and fake bank accounts to over-charge taxpayers in both Ohio and Florida millions for school equipment and then laundering the profits by calling them as “rebates” and “kickbacks” to the owner.

The Buckeye state is still reeling from the closing of the state’s largest online charter that sent over 12,000 students and their families in search of other schools in the middle of last year. The school owed the state over $80 million for faking its enrollments.

In a Pennsylvania school district, local officials decided to close a charter school just before the doors were to reopen for the new school year. The school ranked the lowest in academics in the district, failed to comply with state law for safety and staffing, and likely overcharged the district.

A Vicious Bind

There’s a tendency to dismiss these stories as mere anecdotes and not truly revealing of general conditions of charter schools. But the above examples of charter school scandals are occurred within the past three weeks.

Indeed, the ever-expanding accumulation of news reports and citizen testimony from communities across the nation point to a chronic problem of corruption and education malfeasance in the charter industry that politicians and industry representatives seem little interested in acknowledging, much less addressing.

In the meantime, charter schools use deteriorating conditions in public schools as fodder for their marketing campaigns – for instance, in Detroit, a local charter used the city’s decision to cut off water in city schools as a marketing pitch for parents to go charter instead.

It’s a vicious bind too many families face.

8/30/2018 – The ‘Educator Spring’ Continues

THIS WEEK: The Public Likes Public Schools … DeVos Shorts Civil Rights … College Fraud Wastes Billions … Dems Say No Guns … Ground Zero Fight For Schools

TOP STORY

The ‘Educator Spring’ Continues, Ousting Incumbents And Sweeping New Candidates Into Races

By Jeff Bryant

“After widespread statewide teacher walkouts earlier this year, in which teachers protested poor pay and inadequate school funding, educators running for office and advocates for public schools are making their voices heard … Of the 158 current teachers running for office this year … 95 are advancing to the November general elections in their states, and eight are in upcoming primaries. This doesn’t count the scores of other educators … competing in elections across the country. There’s a good reason teachers and their issues are influencing election outcomes: The public is overwhelmingly on their side.”
Read more …

NEWS AND VIEWS

School Critics Are Ignoring The Public

PDK

The nation’s most respected and longest running survey of public attitudes about public schools finds, “Three conclusions are inescapable: The public does not agree with many of the criticisms leveled at public education by think tanks and public officials. The public’s respect for teachers is well-nigh overwhelming, but parents see the profession as undervalued. And the closer individuals get to a real school, the more they like what they see.”
Read more …

The Department Of Education Underreports Allegations Of Racial Discrimination In Schools

HuffPost

“The U.S. Department of Education has been receiving thousands more racial discrimination allegations in schools than it has previously publicly reported … Between the fiscal years 2013 to 2016, there were over 2,000 allegations regarding racial discrimination in schools that were not previously publicly recorded in the department’s annual reports … The number of racial discrimination allegations filed with the Department of Education has generally increased over the years … Allegations of racial discrimination against black students continue to make up the bulk of overall allegations … DeVos has rescinded civil rights protections for groups like transgender students and created new rules designed to reduce the number of complaints … The office has shifted emphasis away from addressing issues of systemic discrimination.”
Read more …

Graduates Spent Nearly $7.5 Billion On Education That Failed To Deliver

MarketWatch

“Student loan borrowers spent billions on career training programs that failed to deliver. Roughly 350,000 students attended and graduated from either two- or four-year career-education programs in 2012 that were failing or close to failing… These programs, which are supposed to prepare students for specific careers, like cosmetology or culinary arts, saddled borrowers with levels of student loan debt that ate up a huge chunk of their pay … The findings come just a few weeks after Betsy DeVos’s Department of Education announced a plan to … the set of rules … aimed at ensuring that career-training programs prepared students for jobs and didn’t saddle them with unsustainable debt … Thousands of former for-profit college students, who say they were victims of fraud by their schools, are also clamoring for relief from their federal student loans.”
Read more …

House Democrats Push Betsy DeVos To Reject Funding For Guns In Schools

The Washington Post

“House Democrats are urging Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to make clear that a federal grant program cannot be used to buy firearms for schools… At issue is whether states can use Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants, available for a wide range of school expenses, to buy guns intended to bolster school safety. Officials said last week that the department had received inquiries from Texas and Oklahoma and that DeVos is considering the idea … Congressional Democrats are also hoping to attach language to a pending spending bill to bar purchasing guns with the grant money.”
Read more …

Is Louisville Ground Zero In The Fight For Democratic Control Of Public Schools?

The Progressive

Jeff Bryant writes, “Louisville, Kentucky… a looming state takeover of the schools has the community in an uproar … The story has national significance: across the nation, Americans are seeing an increased popularity of state takeovers of local schools … So what’s really behind the state’s case for takeover? … Certainly, the politics of education in the city is contentious … But if the takeover of Lexington schools is all about politics, it’s not a contest between ‘red vs. blue,’ but whether democracy matters at all … In the takeover attempt, the district is being made ‘victim of a dominant political establishment … that is trying to keep control away from a rising electorate in the city intent on remaking schools.'”
Read more …

The ‘Educator Spring’ Continues, Ousting Incumbents And Sweeping New Candidates Into Races

Maybe from now on politicians will think twice before crossing public school teachers. That’s likely what defeated candidates in at least one state, Oklahoma, are thinking after the results of this year’s primary and runoff elections.

After widespread statewide teacher walkouts earlier this year, in which teachers protested poor pay and inadequate school funding, educators running for office and advocates for public schools are making their voices heard in the Sooner State and elsewhere.

Of the 29 Oklahoma state legislators who voted against the teacher pay bill, 18 aren’t returning, CNN reports. Only three won their primaries, a few decided not to run or were term-limited out, and six didn’t have to run. One of the three now has to face an opponent in the November general election who is married to a retired schoolteacher and has the endorsement of the hometown newspaper, particularly because of his stand on education issues.

Oklahoma is not alone. This spring’s teacher uprisings and widespread public discontent with education policy continue to affect elections across the nation and push education issues to the top of contests for governor on down.

Of the 158 current teachers running for office this year, according to Education Week, 95 are advancing to the November general elections in their states, and eight are in upcoming primaries. This doesn’t count the scores of other educators – principals, assistant principals, coaches, counselors, and other school personnel – competing in elections across the country.

There’s a good reason teachers and their issues are influencing election outcomes: The public is overwhelmingly on their side. According to the nation’s most respected and longest running survey of public attitudes about public schools, “Two-thirds of Americans say teachers are underpaid, and an overwhelming 78 percent of public school parents say they would support teachers in their community if they went on strike for more pay.”

The survey, the 50th annual PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, found 70 percent of Americans give their local schools a grade of A or B grade, and 78 percent, a new high, would rather fix public schools than find an alternative to the existing system.

Lawmakers, in both parties, who’ve made it a pastime to dis public schools take heed.

In Oklahoma, the teacher walkouts propelled teacher pay raises and increased school funding to the top issue in every statewide and legislative race.

In Arizona, where teacher walkouts in April also roiled the state, more than a dozen educators are running for office, according to NPR, from the top of the ticket on down, including university professor David Garcia, who won the Democratic party primary contest for governor.

Education will be a top issue in Arizona’s general election in November because in addition to educator candidates stirring the pot, there are ballot amendments to boost education spending by taxing the wealthiest individuals in the state and to stop the expansion of school vouchers.

Educators and education issues have become particularly influential in the red states that experienced the teacher walkouts, including West Virginia and Kentucky, reports Zaid Jilani for The Intercept Jilani notes the defeat of the Kentucky Republican House Majority Leader by R. Travis Brenda, a math teacher, and the takedown of incumbent lawmakers in West Virginia.

“In all, a dozen teachers won Democratic and Republican primaries in Kentucky this year,” Jilani finds.

But educator candidates and education issues have become consequential in states that didn’t experience labor actions too.

“Thirteen educators will be on the ballot in Minnesota this November,” according to the National Education Association.

In Wisconsin, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers will run against incumbent governor Scott Walker by challenging him, to a great degree, on, his atrocious education track record. Polls show the race is a dead heart, and education is the number two issue for voters.

in Connecticut, a former National Teacher of the Year, Jahana Hayes, won the Democratic nomination for Congress, even after she was told she had “no chance,” and she lost the party’s endorsement.

Education has become a “key issue” in the race for governor in New Mexico, Politico reports, where “poor education outcomes, low teacher pay, high unemployment rates, and an active education funding lawsuit” have put education in the spotlight.

In Florida, Andrew Gillum’s improbable win in the Democratic party’s governor party was likely propelled, in part, by education issues, including his bold stance on charter schools – calling them out for “a record of waste and unaccountability” – and his courageous proposition to tax corporations and the wealthy to invest a billion dollars in public schools and teacher pay.

The school funding issue has become particularly contentious not only between the party’s but within. School funding is “one of the most divisive issues for states in this year’s midterm elections,” says Education Week, citing nine states with education funding measures on the ballot, and governor’s races – in Kansas, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere – where questions of how much or whether to fund schools are generating political heat.

“Republicans, who control most state legislatures, are at odds with each other over whether to continue touting tax cuts,” the EdWeek reporter explains. “And embattled Democrats are divided over what strategies will realistically bail out public schools.”

“Candidates who are focused on education … are winning primaries,” argues former Delaware Governor Jack Markell in a recent op-ed. A review of the record thus far proves him right, and politicians who ignore the concerns of educators run at their own risk.

8/23/2018 – Betsy DeVos Fills The Swamp For For-Profit Colleges

THIS WEEK: Kavanaugh And Vouchers … New Assault On Schools … Taking States To Court … Education A Wedge Issue … Transgender Rights Denied

TOP STORY

Betsy DeVos Fills The Swamp For For-Profit Colleges

By Jeff Bryant

“Betsy DeVos has filled regulatory positions for for-profit colleges with former employees and advocates for these schools … She and her appointees dismantled key federal student loan servicing reforms that protected student loan borrowers and made it easier for college students to have loans discharged when they’ve been defrauded by schools … New rules proposed by DeVos would make it extremely difficult for students to prevail should they fall victim to fraud … While making it easier for for-profit colleges to rip off students, DeVos is also allowing many of these institutions to convert to “nonprofits to free these institutions from remaining federal regulations and help them burnish their tarnished brands. DeVos’s action have come just as yet more for-profit colleges are closing campuses under suspicion of defrauding students.”
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NEWS AND VIEWS

Kavanaugh Could Unlock Funding For Religious Education, School Voucher Advocates Say

The New York Times

“School voucher champions see Judge [Bret] Kavanaugh as a critical vote in overturning longstanding constitutional prohibitions, often called Blaine Amendments, that outlaw government funding of religious institutions in more than three dozen states. The amendments have been used to challenge programs that allow taxpayer funding to follow children to private and parochial schools, and are seen as the last line of defense against widespread acceptance of school voucher programs … There are no voucher cases pending before the Supreme Court, but relevant cases are moving through lower courts.”
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40 Cities In 10 Years: Leaked Presentation Offers More Details On New Group’s Goals To Spread Charter (And Charter-Like) Schools

Chalkbeat

“The new organization aiming to spread a mix of charter schools … across the country wants to reach 5 percent of low-income students in the U.S. within five years … The City Fund … has already amassed over $200 million and a well-connected staff … The group’s goals and strategies … include expanding charter schools or charter-like alternatives. Known as the portfolio model,’ it’s a controversial approach … The City Fund’s goal is for cities to have a large charter sector, ‘often scaling to serve 30-50% of students’ … One thing that is explicitly not part of the approach: more public money for schools.”
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How Do You Get Better Schools? Take The State To Court, More Advocates Say

The New York Times

“A wave of lawsuits over the quality of schools in more than a half-dozen states … could serve as road maps for advocates in other states amid a nationwide teachers’ movement and a push in some state legislatures for more school funding. The legal complaints have different areas of focus – from school funding to segregation to literacy – but all of them argue that the states are violating their constitutions by denying children a quality education … The recent cases show a renewed energy for using the courts to fight for better education, and they may signal an end to a period when many courts, after the last recession, seemed unwilling to require states to spend more money on schools … Advocates are focused on state courts because of roadblocks at the federal level … Almost every state constitution guarantees the right to an adequate education.”
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Primary Results Make It Clear K-12 Funding Will Be A Wedge Issue This Fall

Education Week

“One thing to glean from … primaries in Connecticut, Minnesota, Vermont, and Wisconsin is that school funding will continue to be a prime issue of concern this fall … Winners from the latest round of gubernatorial primaries took strong stances on how (or whether) to shore up their schools’ coffers, and their messages seem to be resonating with voters … Candidates have pitched new tax schemes, pledged to overhaul funding formulas, or doubled down on ways to make school spending more efficient.”
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Transgender Students Asked Betsy DeVos For Help. Here’s What Happened.

POLITICO

“After his graduation in 2017 [Alex] Howe filed a complaint with federal civil rights officials at the Department of Education, hoping to ease the way for other transgender students at his school to use the bathrooms of their choice … His complaint is one of at least five involving transgender students denied bathroom access that was thrown out by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who has halted such investigations. Another transgender student … said his bathroom-related complaint hasn’t been dismissed, but his case has stalled for three years. He doesn’t know why … The Education Department’s dismissals are just a slice of what advocates see as a broader assault on LGBT rights across the federal government in the Trump administration.”
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Betsy DeVos Fills The Swamp For For-Profit Colleges

The Democratic party has vowed to brand Republicans as the party of corruption in political campaigns for the upcoming midterm elections in November. Given the slew of scandal-ridden people that surround President Trump and the alleged crimes committed by Congressional Republicans who support the President, Democratic candidates have lots of fodder to stoke their messaging campaigns.

Numerous current and former officials in Trump’s Cabinet have also been dogged by corruption accusations that have forced some to resign under a “cloud of ethics scandals.” But perhaps one of the most corrupt cabinet officials still in office is Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, and there are ample reasons Democrats should highlight her in their messaging campaign.

The education secretary is often the most overlooked cabinet officer, but DeVos is the most unpopular official in the Trump team, and Democrats who plumb the depths of her shady actions will be rewarded with a trove of dark anecdotes.

DeVos ascended to her office with a deep resume of corrupt influence in her home state of Michigan, where she used her family’s considerable wealth to elect candidates and lobby for legislation that erected a billion-dollar charter school industry largely operated by for-profit management companies. As secretary, DeVos is now rewarding charter schools with huge grants courtesy of the US taxpayer.

But in her secretarial duties, DeVos’s greatest contribution to corruption has been in the higher education sector. During her nomination hearing, she was questioned about her family’s investments in LMF WF Portfolio, a company that helped finance a $147 million loan to Performant Financial Co., a college loan servicing and debt collection firm.

DeVos was required to divest from Performant, but her favors to the firm have continued.

Shortly after taking office, DeVos appointed James Manning to be Acting Under Secretary, the number three official in the Department, with responsibility for higher education, and also later put him in charge of the Department’s Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA), which oversees compliance by colleges with department rules regarding taxpayer-funded grants and loans. A letter of concern sent by Democratic senators notes Manning has deep ties to companies involved in the college student loan servicing industry, including a client and business associate who sits on the board of directors of Performant.

Another bone DeVos threw to the college Performant and other student loan firms was her department’s reversal of policies from the Obama administration that had disqualified loan servicers, like Performant, that had records of charging high fees and abusing debt holders. Then, when her department had to decide which company to award a new contract for student loan services, lo-and-behold, Performant got the contract.

A court battle eventually pressured the department to rescind the Performant contract, but the clear conflict of interest evident in DeVos’s department of education would emerge again in other decisions.

Indeed, DeVos’s cronyism with the student loan servicing industry is far exceeded by her efforts to promote the for-profit college industry.

The Obama administration chose to crackdown on for-profit colleges due to concerns that these schools pushed desperate students into useless degree programs that led to massive debts and few prospects for jobs –all at taxpayer expense.

But DeVos filled regulatory positions for for-profit colleges with former employees and advocates for these schools.

Two DeVos hires – senior advisor Robert Eitel and attorney Linda Rawles – worked at Bridgepoint Education, which has run into trouble for deceiving students into taking out loans that cost more than advertised, collecting federal loan money even though the vast majority of students drop out, and rewarding corporate executives and shareholders with huge profits reaped from public funds.

Other DeVos hires – senior adviser Diane Auer Jones and general counsel Carlos G. Muñiz – have previous connections to Career Education Corporation, a for-profit operator that made a $10.25 million settlement with New York over charges it had inflated graduates’ job placement rates.

Another DeVos hire, Julian Schmoke, is former dean of a for-profit college DeVry University (now called Adtalem Global Education), which paid $100 million to settle a lawsuit over misleading marketing tactics. Schmoke new job? To lead the unit that investigates claims of large-scale fraud involving student loans.

Unsurprisingly, after Schmoke was hired, the Education Department downsized the unit into a three-person operation, scaled back activities or redirected resources, and cancelled investigations into Bridgepoint Education and Career Education Corporation.

After stocking her staff with cronies of the for-profit college industry, DeVos gave strong signs her department would ease the regulatory environment for the taxpayer-financed career education sector, which for-profit colleges dominate.

She and her appointees dismantled key federal student loan servicing reforms that protected student loan borrowers and made it easier for college students to have loans discharged when they’ve been defrauded by schools.

Then her deparment delayed implementation of the gainful employment rule, an Obama reform that penalizes career-oriented for-profit programs from letting students run up huge debts while they pursue careers that are low paying or have few job prospects. The delay eventually became a reversal, as DeVos recently proposed new rules that let for-profit colleges evade the consequences of scamming students who’ve used federal loans to attend these schools.

Safeguards imposed by the Obama administration addressed widespread fraud committed by for-profit colleges by giving students a path toward relief from loan debt and reimbursement when they’ve been wronged. But new rules proposed by DeVos would make it extremely difficult for students to prevail should they fall victim to fraud.

For instance, standards for what defines false statements made by a school would be narrowed, and schools will no longer be liable for breaches of contract or violations of state law. Students must prove the school intended to commit fraud, and fewer indebted students woiuld be eligible to obtain loan relief.

Tellingly, days after DeVos announced her new rules, Bridgepoint Education’s stock made a huge gain on Wall Street.

While making it easier for for-profit colleges to rip off students, DeVos is also allowing many of these institutions to convert to “nonprofits to free these institutions from remaining federal regulations and help them burnish their tarnished brands.

DeVos’s action have come just as yet more for-profit colleges are closing campuses under suspicion of defrauding students. Branches of the Illinois Art Institute, Argosy University, and South University that operate in Illinois, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere have been accused of misleading students about the accreditation status of its campuses and converting to low-quality online-only instruction.

The need to rein in for-profit colleges and rescue their students remains acute. In 2015-16, federal government reports show 3.9 million undergraduates with federal student loan debt dropped out of college. More than 900,000 of these students left for-profit universities, making up 23 percent of all indebted dropouts, although only 10 percent of all undergraduates attend for-profits. In a ranking of colleges by their numbers of indebted dropouts, for-profits comprise the top five.

Addressing the college student loan servicing industry and the corrupt for-profit college industry and their roles in expanding the student debt crisis are not only moral imperatives; they’re also a winning issue for Democrats.

A strong majority of likely voters view student debt as a “crisis,” according to a recent poll, with more than 70 percent of Democrats, 67 percent of independents, and 57 percent of Republicans agreeing the $1.5 trillion in student debt amassed by millions of Americans is now an alarming issue in need of being addressed by congressional and presidential action.

Sensing the need to act, state attorneys general in 18 states and the District of Columbia have filed a lawsuit to prevent DeVos from reversing the Obama administration’s rules for protecting students who borrowed money to attend colleges that have closed or defrauded them. DeVos has called their lawsuit “ideologically driven,” using the near exact language the leader of the for-profit college lobbying arm uses to criticize the Obama-era rules.

Democrats should make clear that given the choice of “ideology” over blatant corruption, they’ll chose ideology every time.

(Photo credit: Rick Schindler, Flickr Creative Commons)

Progressives May End Education’s ‘Funding Vs Accountability’ War

THIS WEEK: Puerto Rican School Crisis … The DeVos Agenda … Accountability Isn’t Working … Schools Are Arming Up … Choice Isn’t Justice

TOP STORY

Progressives May End Education’s ‘Funding Vs Accountability’ War

By Jeff Bryant

“The rhetoric of education politics and policy has been dominated by a conflict over inputs versus outcomes … whether public schools and teachers are getting the support and resources they need to adequately educate all students or whether measures of achievement and efficiency prove that our education system is simply not up to the task of educating all students, and schools and teachers need to work harder and be smarter with the money and resources they have … There is evidence of a change in heart and mind that may foretell a new education narrative that breaks out of the funding versus accountability polarity. ”
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NEWS AND VIEWS

Puerto Rico Schools Are Infested With Rats And Missing Chairs And Books After Hurricane – But Sec. Of Education Says Chaos Is Fine

Raw Story

“[In the new school year following the devastation of Hurricane Maria]the Association of Teachers for Puerto Rico visited local schools and said that they are highly under-resourced … Leaky roofs, mold and rat infestation, and hurricane debris … lack of teachers and staff … Secretary of Education Julia Keleher … dismissed the concerns by saying, ‘It’s a smaller problem than we had the year before.'”
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DeVos Family Money Is All Over The News Right Now

NPR

“From the policy of separating immigrant families, to limiting the power of labor unions, to naming the next justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, this summer the DeVos family name has been all over the news … The parents, in-laws and husband of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have given hundreds of millions of dollars to conservative causes. And many of those causes are front and center of policy initiatives and goals of the Trump administration right now … ‘What we see overall is really the purchasing of political power that crosses the spectrum of political and foundation giving … The right is very quick to use foundation funding in a way that the left does not in supporting specific policies.'”
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Pressuring Schools To Raise Test Scores Got Diminishing Returns, New Study Of No Child Left Behind Finds

Chalkbeat

“Setting ambitious goals … putting pressure on schools to reach them … continuing to ‘raise the bar’ during the No Child Left Behind era only had a modest effect at best. That raises questions about whether the small gains were worth … what critics claim were the educational costs of putting a greater focus on test scores … ‘Results suggest that the ratcheting [up] of test-based accountability pressures alone is not enough to sustain improvements in student achievement’ … There was no evidence of higher standards causing any improvements in fourth grade math or reading.”
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Back-To-School Shopping For Districts: Armed Guards, Cameras And Metal Detectors

The New York Times

“Fortified by fences and patrolled by more armed personnel, schools will open their doors to students for the start of the new year with a heightened focus on security intended to ease fears about deadly campus shootings … Some measures go beyond ‘hardening’ school buildings and expanding police presence and focus instead on how to respond to a violent attack … At least 10 states allow districts to arm teachers and other staff members … . ‘I know that guns have this illusion of making people feel safer, but if a depressed kid comes into a school, having an armed guard with a gun is not going to help that student … I don’t know where the line is of making people safe – spending money on a resource that won’t be utilized every day like an armed guard – versus a counselor that would be utilized every day.'”
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School Choice Is The Enemy Of Justice

The New York Times

Contributing writer Erin Aubry Kaplan writes, “Los Angeles and California as a whole have abandoned integration as the chief mechanism of school reform and embraced charter schools instead … This has happened all over the country, of course, but California has led the way … But charters as a group are ill suited to the task of justice … Charters have become the public schools that liberal whites here can get behind. This is in direct contrast to the risky, almost revolutionary energy that fueled past integration efforts, which by their nature created tension and confrontation. But as a society – certainly as a state – we have lost our appetite for that engagement, and the rise of charters is an expression of that loss.”
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Progressives May End Education’s ‘Funding Vs Accountability’ War

For nearly three decades, the rhetoric of education politics and policy has been dominated by a conflict over inputs versus outcomes, that is, whether public schools and teachers are getting the support and resources they need to adequately educate all students or whether measures of achievement and efficiency prove that our education system is simply not up to the task of educating all students, and schools and teachers need to work harder and be smarter with the money and resources they have. The outcome crowd has almost always won. But that might be changing.

On both the white-hot frontline of political campaigns leading up to this year’s midterm elections, and in the cubicles of data mavens and think tank wonks writing education policy, there is evidence of a change in heart and mind that may foretell a new education narrative that breaks out of the funding versus accountability polarity and re-centers education politics on a more holistic vision of what schools and students need.

A Top-Down Agenda

The outcome crowd has been dominant from the top down.

Beginning in the 1980s, politicians, policy makers, and business elites pointed to measures of student “proficiency” in reading and math, a yawning gap between how white students and their black and brown peers score on standardized tests, and mediocre results for American students taking international exams as proof that schools and teachers were failing students and communities.

Gradually, political leaders in both parties made “raise the bar” the mantra for education policy.

The attacks on schools resulted in a federal agenda to govern education based on test scores, an agenda that was both a product of policies in reform-minded states like North Carolina and Texas and an encouragement to historically high-performers like Massachusetts and New Jersey to impose new standards and more stringent accountability.

Their crowning achievement was the bipartisan federal legislation called No Child Left Behind that required states to use quantitative outcomes – mostly student scores on standardized tests in reading and math, but some other measures – to determine whether schools met standards. Results also had to be broken down into racial, ethnic, income, and ability student subgroups. A school “passed” if all of its student subgroups met the academic thresholds and the school’s other measures weren’t declining. A school “failed” when even one subgroup missed the threshold.

NCLB required states to subject chronically failing schools to intervene by either taking over operation of the school, firing all or part of the school’s staff, handing the school over to a charter management firm, or closing the school.

A revision of NCLB in 2016 eased federal pressures somewhat – new legislation known as Every Student Succeeds Act gives states more leeway over school intervention strategies – but governance based on the all-mighty test scores still remains the standard in determining failing schools.

But there are now clear signs the accountability argument has become unsustainable.

Bad Politics

When teachers in red states across the country walked off the job earlier this year, it sent a powerful message to politicians that the accountability argument had run into a dead end.

The teachers’ actions brought to light to many who weren’t aware that education funding has not recovered from the Great Recession, and the majority of states fund schools less now than they did in 2008, and teacher salaries have been mostly flat or down since the 1990s. Teachers pointed to not only the lack of funding but also to the gross disconnect between the accountability agenda and the deteriorating conditions of their students, their schools, and their communities.

There’s strong evidence some politicians are listening.

In numerous primary elections this year so far, progressives surged to victories in Democratic contests in key House race by discarding the party’s platform crafted by operatives in Washington, DC and Wall Street. Candidates are instead basing their issue campaigns on cues from their local constituents.

The changing dynamic in the Democratic party will undoubtedly shift candidates more toward the funding-input side, as polls consistently show voters want more education spending, even if it increases their taxes.

K-12 funding will be a “wedge issue” in midterm elections this fall, says a report in Education Week by Daarel Burnette. Winners are taking “strong stances on how (or whether) to shore up their schools’ coffers, and their messages seem to be resonating with voters,” Burnette observes.

But the failure of the accountability agenda goes beyond politics.

Bad Policy

The whole idea that more intense accountability will produce greater gains in student achievement, regardless of funding and resources, is not only losing its currency in politics; it’s proving to be bad policy.

According to a new study by researchers at two leading universities, states under NCLB that pushed their accountability agendas the hardest had mostly disappointing results. Setting ambitious goals and putting pressure on schools to reach them led to only small improvements in eighth-grade math and no improvement in fourth-grade reading.

Even among the various subgroups the accountability agenda had been professed to address, more stringent NCLB implementation led to only small improvements in eighth-grade math and possibly in eighth-grade reading achievement, but no effects on fourth-grade math or reading.

This is not to dispense with accountability altogether.

The report finds states that had little to no accountability for schools previous to NCLB were more apt to show improvements after they adopted more stringent standards, and the gains were largest for certain disadvantaged student subgroups. But even these gains eventually plateaued.

The report authors conclude that all the efforts to pressure schools to improve test scores had benefits that were “minor” at best, despite the high expense of the programs and the ill-will they fomented among teachers and communities. “Ratcheting of test-based accountability pressures alone is not enough to sustain improvements in student achievement,” they write. “Schools and teachers also need additional resources to improve instructional practice.”

Breaking Bad

Clearly, it’s time to break from an accountability-only agenda that is both bad politics and bad policy.

But while the authors’ call for a “Goldilocks” solution of getting the balance between accountability and support “just right” is an improvement over the status quo, it’s doubtful that policy leaders who got us into the quagmire over outcomes versus inputs should be entrusted with proposing a better way forward.

New leaders being thrust to the forefront of politics by a surge from the progressive left seem to get that too.

Instead of clinging to the ideas of deeply invested “experts,” they’re listening to voices in their communities who reject the old trade-offs between this agenda or that and call instead for an agenda for the common good. This revitalized populism from the left has united behind policy ideas like Medicare for all, free college, and reigning in Wall Street. Yet it remains to be seen what policies will unify new progressive leaders on K-12 schools. But at least they’re on the right track.

(Photo credit: Calgary Church, https://calgarychurch.ca/about-church/how-do-we-achieve-balance-in-life/)