Center Applauds US Supreme Court Ruling on Educational Freedom

Center’s Policy Idea Enhanced by SCOTUS Ruling
See the Catch-Up ESAs Policy Brief here

Providence, RI – The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity applauds yesterday’s decision by the US Supreme Court that empowers school choice families to be able to freely select faith-based private schools for their children’s education. 

The Court’s ruling is a major win for educational, parental, and religious freedom … in that government can no longer place restrictions on a child’s future just because of a school’s religiosity.


The SCOTUS ruling would apply to the the Catch-up ESAs, proposed in a policy brief last week by the Center. These one-time Educational Savings Accounts would be available to all qualified students in the state and would immediately fill major gaps in the five-year Providence schools reform plan by addressing current student needs. 


These ESAs, which would tap unspent federal CARES Act funding in Rhode Island, have earned support the of prominent minority advocate, Ray Rickman, during a recently taped episode of In The Dugout with Mike Stenhouse, a new video interview series by the Center. Rickman heads Stages of Freedom, a nonprofit that works with hundreds of minority families.

With about one-billion dollars in anticipated revenue shortfalls for RI, the Center publishes a new report with proven budget strategy.

DECISION OF THE CENTURY: New Report Lays Out a 2021 Budget Strategy for Prosperity

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 29, 2020

A 2021 Budget Strategy For Long-Term Prosperity
Legislative Leaders Not Understanding the New Reality?

Providence, RI – With about one-billion dollars in anticipated revenue shortfalls, and with recent statements from leading Rhode Island lawmakers indicating a general feeling of helplessness, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity today published a new report with proven budget strategies that can help put the state on a long-term trajectory towards prosperity. 

Virtually all recent comments from public officials indicate an undue reliance on federal bailout funds in the hope that status quo spending levels might be maintained. This is not a budget strategy. 

Compiled after numerous discussions with colleagues in other states, as well as with state budget experts with national organizations, the Center’s report, Decision of the Century, is premised on the understanding that the decisions soon to be made by lawmakers in dealing with the pandemic-caused revenue losses, will set the near and long term trajectory for the Rhode Island economy; whether our state will experience a “V”, “U”, or “L” shaped recovery and what our Ocean State’s business climate will look like in the years and decades ahead. 

“The budget problems we face did not come down from the heavens; they were government-made and they can be reversed. Lawmakers should not feel helpless, nor should they rely on the federal government. Many states are taking proactive steps to prepare their state economies for rapid recovery … and we must do the same,” advised Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO. “Lawmakers have to understand that they can no longer hide from the responsibilities and difficult decisions they were elected take on. The status quo budget approach – tax, spend, and borrow – will not work in response to this pandemic crisis.”

Similar to what the state of Washington adopted years ago, the report, co-authored by professor Dennis Sheehan and research director Justin Katz, highlights proven budget strategies that are flexible enough to navigate the unpredictable and massive deficits that lay ahead, while allowing the freedom for economic growth. The three key components of this strategy are:

  1. Establishing “Core Principles of Government” – to ensure that the most-vital functions of government are clearly defined as guidelines for the budget process
  2. Adopting a “Revenue-Constrained Spending” philosophy – committing the state to spending only those moneys that are actually taken in, at current tax and fee rates
  3. Setting “Priority Based Spending” targets – such that specific spending categories or programs are pre-prioritized and will be funded only as actual revenue receipts are realized

The primary decision for lawmakers will be to determine what budget strategy path Rhode Island’s financial recovery will take. Will it go down the road of a centrally “planned economy”, with lawmakers arbitrarily making political tax and spending decisions that impose more government control over our lives? Or, will the “invisible hand” of the free-enterprise system be allowed to work, increasing prosperity and paving the way for more rapid economic, jobs, and income growth?

This critical decision will determine whether the Ocean State is to become a more or less hospitable place to raise a family and build a career; and whether families, graduates, retirees, and investors will continue to flee our state. 

“In these unique times, a reality-based budget strategy is required. There is no time to pretend that the same old budget approach … one that has created the worst state business climate in the nation … can work for us now,” concluded Stenhouse.

More information and budget posts from the past years can be viewed at RIFreedom.org/Budget.

Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI), December 2019: Signs of Growth Foretell a Revision

The final report for 2019 of the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI) found Rhode Island still with its overall ranking of 47th in the country. Data for all 12 datapoints of the index except federal taxes were updated for this iteration, and the only negatives, compared with September, were a slight increase in marginally attached workers and a more-significant increase in state and local taxes.

Employment and labor force were up about 0.7% and 0.6%, respectively, since the first-reported numbers for September, and RI-based jobs increased 0.5%. With the national economy continuing to improve, Medicaid enrollment fell 3.2%, while TANF (cash welfare) rolls shrank by 24.0%. SNAP enrollment was down 0.3%. The Ocean State had 16.5% fewer residents who counted as long-term unemployed and 7.8% fewer who were working only part time because more work was not available. However, the number counting as marginally attached increased 2.1%.

When it comes to money, personal income was up a modest 0.3% on an annualized basis, which amounted to $161 million more income. However, state and local taxation increased 1.4%, or $50 million, resulting not only from the increased income, but also increases in taxation after recent legislative sessions.

The first chart shows RI remaining last in New England on JOI, at 47th. New Hampshire held the 1st spot, nationally. Maine improved its standing two spots, to 17th, while Vermont continued to slip, to 21st. Massachusetts moved up a step to 36th, and Connecticut advanced to 37th. The second chart shows the gaps between RI and New England and the United States on JOI, and the third chart shows the gaps in the official unemployment rate.

Results for the three underlying JOI factors were:

  • Job Outlook Factor (optimism that adequate work is available): RI advanced five spots, to 27th.
  • Freedom Factor (the level of work against reliance on welfare programs): RI remained 41st.
  • Prosperity Factor (the financial motivation of income versus taxes): RI remained 47th.

Click here for the corresponding employment post on the Ocean State Current.

Rhode Island still held its overall ranking of 47th in the country on the September 2019 third quater Jobs & Opportunity Index.

Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI), September 2019: Hanging on While the Country Advances

As the third quarter of 2019 came to a close, Rhode Island still held its overall ranking of 47th in the country on the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI) but was basically tied with 48th place Louisiana. Data for all 12 datapoints of the index except federal taxes were updated for this iteration, and RI benefited by the fact that it was finally able to report data for SNAP (foodstamps), which it had not done for two-and-a-half years thanks to the UHIP debacle.

Compared with June, RI improved on most measures. Employment and labor force were up about 0.6% since the first-reported numbers for June, with RI-based jobs increasing a more-modest 0.3%. Correspondingly, Medicaid enrollment fell 0.8%, while TANF (cash welfare) rolls shrank by 8.0%. SNAP enrollment was down 4.0%, although that is from the number as reported ever since February 2017. The Ocean State had 2.3% fewer residents who counted as long-term unemployed and 3.8% fewer who were working only part time because more work was not available. However, the number counting as marginally attached increased 23.7%.

The picture is also mixed when it comes to money. Personal income was up 3.9% on an annualized basis, which amounted to $1.8 billion more income. However, state and local taxation increased 10.5%, or $349 million, resulting not only from the increased income, but also expansive changes to tax policy.

The first chart shows RI remaining last in New England on JOI, at 47th for September 2019. New Hampshire returned to 1st nationally. Vermont and Maine slipped, to 14th and 19th, respectively. Massachusetts remained 37th. However, Connecticut advanced to 38th.

Rhode Island still held its overall ranking of 47th in the country on the September 2019 third quater Jobs & Opportunity Index.

The second chart shows the gaps between RI and New England and the United States on JOI for September 2019, and the third chart shows the gaps in the official unemployment rate.

Rhode Island still held its overall ranking of 47th in the country on the September 2019 third quater Jobs & Opportunity Index.
Rhode Island still held its overall ranking of 47th in the country on the September 2019 third quater Jobs & Opportunity Index.

Results for the three underlying Jobs & Opportunity Index factors were:

  • Job Outlook Factor (optimism that adequate work is available): RI fell three spots, to 32nd.
  • Freedom Factor (the level of work against reliance on welfare programs): RI advanced two, to 41st.
  • Prosperity Factor (the financial motivation of income versus taxes): RI remained 47th.

Click here for the corresponding employment post on the Ocean State Current.

alaska-opt-in-form-recommended

Center Recommends Alaska-type Opt-in Form for Public Employees. 1900 Already Opted-out?

R.I. Should Follow Alaska’s Lead With a Clear Union Opt-in Form Process

Center’s My Pay-My Say Campaign Has Already Produced up to 1900 Rhode Island Union Opt-outs

Providence, RI – The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity recommends that all state and municipal employers in Rhode Island follow Alaska’s lead to protect the rights of public employees by achieving full compliance with the 2018 US Supreme Court Janus v AFSCME decision.

The Center recommends that the various state and local departments should create a new form and related procedures to verify employees’ identity, explain their full rights, and document their clear intent. Not doing so puts government employers in danger of being in violation of workers’ first amendment rights.

“According to the highest court in the land, no public servant should have union dues automatically deducted from their paycheck unless they provide clear affirmative consent with full understanding of their Janus rights,” advised Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “Without a union opt-in process that fully complies with Janus, governments and unions may be at risk of legal action by employees who may have been misinformed.”

In the summer of 2018 the Center initiated its MyPayMySayRI.com campaign, which seeks to advise public employees of their newly restored first amendment rights under Janus

Since then, based actual responses to dozens of records-requests, it can be documented that there are 811 more government workers in 2019 who chose not to pay expensive government union dues than in 2018. This means more than 4% of workers opted-out of their unions. Extrapolated across the entire state, it is estimated that there are now 1900 fewer dues- or fee-paying union members than last year.

In late September, Alaska Governor Michael J. Dunleavy, backed by an opinion from the state’s Attorney General, announced the implementation of an administrative order to protect the first amendment rights of State employees by bringing State government into compliance with the 2018 court ruling. Per Dunleavy’s press release:

“In Janus, the Supreme Court held that 1) government employees cannot be required to pay dues or fees to a public sector union as a condition of employment, and 2) no money can be deducted by employers for public sector unions “unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay.” Public employers, such as the State, cannot according to the court, deduct union dues or fees from an employee’s wages unless the employer has “clear and compelling evidence” that the employee has authorized such deductions. The administrative order only applies to State of Alaska employees currently represented by a union.

The administrative order directs the Alaska Department of Administration to create an initial opt-in program where unionized State employees decide, online or in written form, if they want union dues deducted from their paychecks, which would be revocable at any time.”

NEW REPORT: Collective Bargaining Gives Incentive to Providence Teachers NOT to Work for 37 Days

37 Days: Paid for Not Working in Providence Schools

Collective-bargaining contracts provide a disincentive to teach

Providence, RI –– The collective-bargaining agreement between the Providence Teachers Union and the government of Providence may explain why chronic teacher absences are one of the major problems contributing to the dismal K-12 educational conditions in the capital city. 

The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity today released a report – Paid for Not Working, Collective Bargaining Taxpayer Ripoff #2 : Providence Teacher Leaves of Absence – that highlights the many forms of collectively-bargained “leave time” allowed for teachers. About a quarter of all Providence teachers are being paid for missing 10% (18 days) or more of their vital class time with students. As the union contract actually allows for up to 37 days of paid-time-off per year per teacher, the teacher absentee problem could be twice as bad.

“It is not difficult to understand that if our front-line public servants have incentive to not actually be on the front lines, then the overall quality of those public services will suffer,” said Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO. “We should be thankful that more teachers are not taking full advantage of the numerous and counter-productive leave provisions that unions demand.”

The Center’s new report, an expansion of its Taxpayer Ripoff #1 Ghost Workers report in May, discusses the financial and societal costs of these excessive leave provisions and includes a table listing the many ways and days teachers are allowed to not teach and, in most cases, to be paid for not working. 

In the spring of 2019, the Center published a major report – Public Union Excesses – detailing the $888 million per year in excessive costs paid by taxpayers due to overly generous collective bargaining provisions in government union contracts at the state and local levels. With two-thirds of these costs absorbed by municipal taxpayers, property taxes could be lowered by as much as 25% if government services were contracted at normal market rates.

PAID FOR NOT WORKING, COLLECTIVE-BARGAINING TAXPAYER RIPOFF #2 : Providence Teacher Leaves of Absence

It is not difficult to understand that if our front-line public servants have incentive to not actually be on the front lines, then the overall quality of those public services will suffer … Mike Stenhouse

In the spring of 2019, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity published a major report — Public Union Excesses — detailing the $888 million per year in excessive costs paid by taxpayers due to overly generous collective bargaining provisions in government union contracts at the state and local levels. With two-thirds of these costs absorbed by municipal taxpayers, property taxes could be lowered by as much as 25% if government services were contracted at normal market rates.

Societal Costs. The excessive financial costs to taxpayers may not be as troubling as the social costs resulting from government worker unionization in our state. Union officials have propagated a culture in which extracting every possible dime from taxpayers and dues-payers, regardless of the impact on the quality of the services rendered, appears to be the objective, a culture that inevitably has creeped into the workplace. 

Educational Failures. Perhaps no area of government service exemplifies this negative value proposition more clearly than public education. In November 2018, the state released the RICAS student assessment scores, which highlighted the Ocean State’s dismal performance of schools within its public educational system. Furthermore, a July 2018 report showed that Rhode Island schools also suffered from the third-highest teacher absentee rate in the nation.

Connecting the dots, Public Union Excesses clearly lays out the many union contract provisions that provide a disincentive for teachers and other public employees to actually show up for work or perform the vital public services they were hired to conduct at peak levels. 

Teacher Attendance. With a national spotlight shining on the government-run Providence public school system for operating what some have characterized as among the worst schools in the country, the lack of consistent and reliable teacher attendance has been in the news.  Boston Globe journalist Dan McGowan reports that 500 of the city’s teachers (more than one-quarter) were absent at least 18 times, which is 10% of the school year.  That percentage is subtracted from teachers’ 181-day work-year, which is already 21% shorter than the approximate private-sector average work-year of 230.

Parents and interested Rhode Islanders might wonder how this is possible, so the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity took a look at the Providence Teachers Union contract.  Our results are shown in the table below.

In summary, in a standard year, teachers are contractually allowed to take up to 26 days off for a variety of reasons, from sick leave (15 days) to “purposes connected with the welfare of the school and/or community” (2 days).  Unlike in the private sector, unused sick days for teachers are allowed to roll over — in full — from year to year, up to 150 days.  A teacher can use up to 135 paid days off in one year before facing any consequences.

Common life events like weddings and deaths can add more time to the annual total — 11 days for a year with one of each.  Additionally, all teachers are eligible for up to another 11 days for union activities on a rotating and limited basis.  Additionally, a union professional development/mentoring coordinator is relieved of teaching duties for one-fifth of the school year, while the union president is relieved for two-fifths; that’s the equivalent of 36 and 72 days each.  Adding in the other days off available to all teachers, the union president would be able to not do any actual teaching for the equivalent of 101 of the work year’s 181 days.  The Center reported on such absences in our May 2019 “Ghost Workers” report.

On top of this are longer-term and more-rare absences like sabbaticals, quarantine, or job-related-injury leave, which can go for a year or more with pay.  Teachers can also take a year at a time off without pay for a number of reasons.

Of course, when a regular teacher is away for a day or for an extended period of time, a substitute teacher must often be hired at additional expense; in Providence it is estimated that substitute teachers cost taxpayers and extra $7 million per year.

These added costs, combined with the reduced quality of education, are one reason why Providence public schools are performing so poorly.

“PAID FOR NOT WORKING” – COLLECTIVELY BARGAINED, ALLOWED TEACHER ABSENCES IN PROVIDENCE

Number of Days Contract Citation
Standard Year
Sick leave 15 4-1
Personal 2 5-1.4
Superintendent-approved personal 3 5-1.5
Religious observance 3 5-1.2
"Welfare of the school and/or community" 2 5-1.6
Visiting other schools (in or out of district) 1 5-1.7
Subtotal 26
Life Events1
Wedding 2 5-1.1
Bereavement (immediate family) 5 5-2
Bereavement (in-laws) 3 5-2
Bereavement (extended) 1 5-2
Subtotal 11
Union Activities (Limited Number of Teachers)
Delegate to AFL-CIO or other union meetings 5 5-1.3
Negotiating Committee2 1 16-2.2
Union professional development/mentoring attendance 5 8-30-2
Subtotal 11
Total available to any given teacher each year 48
Special Union Positions3
Union professional development/mentoring coordinator4 36 8-30-1
Total available to coordinator 65
Union president5 72 5-6
Total available to union president 101
Other Events
Sabbatical 91 5-3
Compulsory Reserve or National Guard 20 5-7.2
Injured on the job 90 6-1
Assault and/or battery on the job 181 6-2
Government tests & examinations Unlimited 5-8
Court service Unlimited 5-9
Quarantine Unlimited 5-10
Without Pay
Personal 181 5-5.1
Union service 181 5-6
Military leave 181 5-7
Parental/adoption leave 181 5-11
Notes:
1 The “life events” subtotal assumes one of each in a given year.
2 We estimate an average of one day per year in total negotiating time for each teacher on the negotiating committee. Some years, this would be zero, and other years, it could be much higher than 1.
3 The union coordinator and president totals adjust the days available for all teachers so as not to double count their lighter work schedules.
4 The number of days off for the coordinator is the one-fifth schedule reduction applied to the full school year.
5 The number of days off for the president is the two-fifth schedule reduction applied to the full school year.
The Center refutes the unsubstantiated & off-target NEA-RI claims made by two government union officials in publicly responding to our Union Excess Report.

Center Assigns Blame, Calls for Bankruptcy to Help Solve Providence K-12 Disaster

The Government-Union Alliance Has Failed Students
Collective-bargaining savings and immediate private school options are vital

Providence, RI –– The dismal public school system in Providence is clearly the result of a failed and costly government-union alliance, with misplaced priorities, that likely will require new perspectives and city bankruptcy as part of the solution. A state takeover would only be more of the same.

The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperitymaintains that whatever reforms are eventually implemented from whatever public review process is put in place will not help the tens of thousands of Providence students currently in their critical learning years. 

The Center refutes the unsubstantiated & off-target NEA-RI claims made by two government union officials in publicly responding to our Union Excess Report.

“These kids need a new and better learning environment now, today. They cannot wait,” said Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO. “In order to provide Providence and all Rhode Island students with a better chance at a brighter future, new players must have a seat at the table and new thinking is required as part of the solution. This dire situation cannot be turned around if the same people that caused the problem – local and state government and teachers union officials – are in charge of developing solutions.”

Historically, faint-hearted politicians and their teacher union allies have blocked educational reform ideas that have been successful in other states. However, if political leaders are honest and serious about their proclamations that all options must now be considered, and are willing to break those historical ties, the Center offers two practical and significant reform items that can have immediate impact:

1. More Educational Choices for Families. Recognizing that the larger school system reform process will take many, many years – if ever – to take positive effect, the Center suggests that thousands of Providence families can be provided with an an immediate escape-hatch from the drowning Providence school system. Educational Scholarship Accounts (ESAs), first introduced in Rhode Island by the Center in 2014, would empower parents with the freedom and funding to select a private school educational path for their children. Extensive research by the Center showed that an ESA program can be immediately implemented – at no additional cost to state or local taxpayers!

Learn more about the Center’s Bright Today Scholarship program at www.RIFreedom.org/EdChoiceRI or read our mini-report here.

2. Bankruptcy & Collective Bargaining Savings to Repair Schools. The top priority of any public school system must be about educating kids, not enriching adults. Decrepit and rat-infested school buildings can be repaired with savings from reworked overly-generous contracts with the teacher and all Providence unions. The Center’s May 2019 Public Union Excesses report estimated that the city of  Providence is paying $110 million per year above and beyond private-sector rates for collectively-bargained services. This amount of annual money could easily fund the physical repair and upgrade of school buildings in Providence in just a few years. 

However, given the newly enacted “evergreen contracts” law, it is only through bankruptcy proceedings, with a capable receiver, that these excessive collectively- bargained funds can be freed up for use in Providence. This is a Providence problem that must be solved with Providence money. It would be unfair for the state to mandate that taxpayers in other cities and towns to be forced to pay for the capitol city’s incompetence.

Instead of honor the law to reduce the state's sales tax, faint-hearted House leaders are instead trying to sneak a repeal without public debate.

Center Calls on Lawmakers to Keep and Honor the 6.5% Sales Tax Promise, and Stop its Repeal

House Budget Seeks to Repeal Sales Tax Cut Statute
Center Calls on Lawmakers to Keep Promise to Taxpayers

Providence, RI — Rather than honor existing state law that specifies a reduction in the state’s sales tax rate, and deal with continued criticism for inaction, faint-hearted House leaders are instead seeking to change the law by attempting to sneak its repeal through the budget without public debate. 

As a sad irony, instead of using the budget process to reduce the sales tax rate for Ocean State consumers, and comply with state law, as the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity had previously suggested … the House decided to use the budget process to repeal the law, hoping not to raise any public attention. 

“Clearly, the Speaker and House leaders recognize that our Center has been right all along about complying with this state statute,” said the Center’s CEO, Mike Stenhouse. “So, rather than honor the law, they seek to change the law. This disturbing trend of moving the goal-posts will not bring prosperity to Rhode Islanders.”

Now, the Center calls on rank-and-file lawmakers to stand-up for the promise made to taxpayers years ago and to find a way to keep the law on the books, if not demand that the law actually be followed. 

The original rationale for the law was to relieve Rhode Islanders of the added burden of a sales tax imposed on a broader range of “internet” purchased goods, by easing the overall tax rate. The Center, in its 6.5% Sales Tax policy brief argued that the legal threshold had effectively been met by the continued expansion of the sales tax on internet purchases by remote sellers.

“If the political class breaks this sales tax promise, how can Rhode Islanders ever trust the promise made about not imposing tolls on our cars,” asked Stenhouse. “This loss of hope for our state’s political system is one reason why so many of our family and friends are fleeing our state.”

Suffering from a spate of retail store closings and a depressed jobs market, as compared with other states, the Center has repeatedly made the case that Rhode Island would get an economic boost from a reduced sales tax rate, in addition to providing residents with more cash in their pockets.

In its Zero.Zero report many years ago, the Center’s extensive research and economic modeling calling for a full repeal of the state sales tax, or reduction to 3.0%, as the most effective way to grow jobs. Related legislation in 2013 gained significant legislative interest, but ultimately did not advance.

After 10 years of perhaps the slowest economic recovery among all states, Rhode Island’s political leaders are not fulfilling their promise to help the average family. Time is running out to stop hurting families and business with high property taxes from excessive government services.

NEW: Center Publishes Municipal Summary of its “Public Union Excesses” Report

Municipalities Across RI are Burdened with $590 million in Excess Costs… Not counting liabilities for paying people not to work!

Providence, RI— The #1 reason why local property taxes are up to 25% higher than they need be, is because of the $590 million in “excessive” costs, shared by municipalities across Rhode Island, for collectively-bargained government services, negotiated by government unions. This according to the landmark report, Public Union Excesses, released by the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity in early May.

Additionally, these same municipalities are also burdened with a liability not often discussed – payments due to government workers who are allowed to “cash in” on their overly-generous and unused allowed “absences” – sick days, personal days, and other compensated leave time – as specified in their unions’ collective bargaining agreements … another $163 million cost heaped upon local taxpayers. 

To underscore these local costs, the Center today published a 4-page summary of its Public Union Excesses report, which focuses on the municipal costs of collective-bargaining with government unions. All related material can be found at www.RIFreedom.org/Unions.

“This summary report is a must-have reference for all local school committee and city and town council members if they are looking for ways to control the exploding costs of collectively-bargained contracts with their municipal unions,” advised Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO. “If you would like print copies, just let us know.”

In Lincoln for example, one table on the summary lists the estimated $13.1 million in excessive costs, while another table lists the $4.3 million owed for paying workers not to work. In East Greenwich, the costs are $9.6 million and $.9 million respectively.

A bar-chart in the summary shows that most public sector employees often enjoy 50% more sick days than their private sector counterparts. Compounding the effect, government workers are usually allowed to carry-forward far more of their accumulated sick days – which can be cashed in each year or upon retirement.