Entries by Scott W. Graves

Not yet a Declaration of Independence but Getting There

In an op-ed in the Saturday Globe, Father Monan and Michael Keating deliver some very good news on the Trial Court. In March 2002 Pioneer released A Declaration of Independence, a detailed and highly critical report on the mismatch of resources to court caseload. On the heels of the Pioneer report, Chief Justice Marshall established the Visiting Committee on Management in the Courts and invited Father Monan, Chancellor of Boston College, to chair the committee. The Monan Commission “issued an harsh assessment of court operations” a year after the Pioneer report and developed numerous recommendations. Two points of good news from the Mass Trial Court that deserve special highlight: The Trial Court has adopted the National Center for State Courts’ […]

WaPo on School Standards

The Washington Post on September 10 had this to say as Congress begins to deliberate on the fate of No Child Left Behind: Does this country want to make schools better — or just make schools look better? If Congress is true to the noble idea that all children, no matter their races, family incomes or circumstances, can learn to read and do math, it must reject suggestions that make a charade of standards and accountability. Can’t get much clearer than that. But how about giving real relief to parents who are stuck in failing schools? I believe (emphasis on “believe”, as in I have heard from reliable sources) that the number of students in the Worcester Public Schools whose […]

It’s about the children – ugly, mean and expensive

On October 5, Pioneer is releasing a survey of state tax deduction and tax credit programs in other states that have been used to offer scholarships to inner city kids. Come one, come all. Other states have charged ahead of Massachusetts in promoting parental involvement and school choice.  New York is pushing charters, and New City is moving to create dozens of new charter schools through the Uncommon Schools effort.  Florida, Minnesota and Arizona have long advanced tax deduction and tax credit programs.  And then in February Utah passed a far-reaching voucher law. If you think proponents of the status quo and self-interest are taking this all sitting down, you are decidedly wrong. The Wall Street Journal recently reported on […]

Quo Vadis?

Ross Gittell in the New England Journal of Higher Education/Summer 2007 edition (“Demographic Demise”) neatly summarizes why the New England region should be concerned about future growth. The data on our inability to recruit and retain the 25-34 cohort is pretty dramatic. Overall, New England’s population grew by only eight percent—far less than the national average of 18 percent. Yes, but we get quality and energetic, bright young workers, right? Wrong. Even granting the ballooning of the baby boomer population, and therefore a seven percent decline in the 25-34 year old set nationwide, Gittell notes that “most alarming” is that the 25-34 set declined by about 25 percent in New England over the 15-year period. All NE states were in […]

Mass Health Care, USA

Mitt Romney is now doubling back to health care after his symbolic take in Iowa.  USA Today reports that Mitt is leaning on the Mass model but that the universal mandate and many features in the Bay State law (read “bureaucracy and mandates”) are not part of his health care platform.  Here is an abridged version: Federal incentives aimed at freeing health insurance markets from regulations The use of “free care” pool money from the feds to subsidize a portion of the price of private insurance for low-income uninsured individuals A more robust version of health savings account Full deductibility of qualified medical expenses which will allow Americans to deduct the cost of their health insurance and out-of-pocket medical expenses. Flexibility for states to test-drive reforms to […]

Good God, professors bow to the Left?

Who wudda thunk it? I mean, I never saw any hint of politicized courses at university! Marcella Bombardieri today reports in the Globe that 75% of the $7 million given to campaigns by academicians went to Democrats. I am shocked–shocked! 81% at MIT, 82% at Harvard, 90% at BU, 99% at Northeastern, and 100% at Tufts. More importantly, Bombardieri notes at the top of her article Professors and others in the education field have given more to federal candidates running in 2008 than those who work in the oil, pharmaceutical, and computer industries — a sign of how academia has become a much bigger player in the political cash sweepstakes. We need laws–yes, laws!–to stem the controlling influence of the […]

Bored with education progress

It was something of a blast from the past that Governor Patrick appointed Paul Reville to chair the Board of Education. Entirely expected given that Paul chaired the First Task Force that led to the Second Task Force. But the appointment does say something about the “blast from the past” quality of education debates. Paul was on the board from 1991 to 1996. A bipartisan agreement (Weld-Birmingham-Finneran) led to the replacement of Paul and others and the appointment of the top vote-getting Democrat (and previously electoral opponent to Weld) John Silber to the helm of the BOE. Positive qualities Paul brings to the BOE are that he listens, and that he has some broader academic training (M.A.), which could be […]

Thoughts on housing and Middle Cities

Housing is critical to the viability of Middle Cities, because housing development is the ticket to bringing a younger demographic and spending power back downtown—and therefore to fiscal solvency. These cities are built for and the leadership in these cities comfortable with high-density construction, especially if funding for school costs is available. Then why is there no 40R construction in these cities? The problem lies in the state requirement that all communities, notwithstanding the specific city or town’s attainment of the state’s 10 percent affordability threshold, deed restrict 20 percent of total 40R units to households earning no more than 80 percent of area median income (AMI). Most of these cities easily exceed the state’s affordability goals. Holyoke more than […]

The new math of convention madness

The Boston Business Journal today reports that the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority is issuing an RFP to expand the Bonston Convention & Exhibition Center. The request for proposals is for the development of a master plan for the BCEC that will provide an envelope for future expansion of the facility. Gloria Larson calls the BCEC “as successful as we hoped.” Golly, Gloria, one might call that a pretty big plea from low expectations.  She notes, in fact, that The building has exceeded our expectations, and it is the right time to explore what we should do with the undeveloped portion of the property. A master plan is the best way to start the dialogue. In a previous post, I noted that while […]

Stop with the running!

Another post on running?! Well, this one is on running afoul of intellectuals because of running! The TimesOnline, grazie tante to the Arts & Letters Daily for this one, reports that President Sarkozy has fallen foul of intellectuals and critics who see his passion for jogging as un-French, right-wing and even a ploy to brainwash his citizens. Attacks on Mr Sarkozy’s pastime, which he has made a symbol of his presidency, began on the internet as soon as he bounded up the steps of the Elysée Palace in shorts when he took office in May. That moment has become the icon of his hyperenergetic administration. The grumbling has now moved to television and the press. “Is jogging right wing?” wondered […]

Slow to act

Post haste it is not. I received a few days ago a letter from a friend in DC. She had apparently cut out a newspaper article from May 2nd and sent it to me. Now, I don’t know what blue plate special it got stuck under, but it took almost two months for me to get it. Speaking of slow to act, how about the contents of said article? Let’s start with the title of the article in The Current: “Old convention center site to host 700 housing units.” Seems that the 10-acre parcel southwest of Mount Vernon Square where the Washington Convention Center was (New York Avenue and 9th, H and 11th streets) is being redeveloped as a Town […]

An even happier Fourth

… and perhaps an unhappy fifth. The deed is done. I made it through the Arnold Mills four-miler far faster than I had thought, executed with aplomb and a fine Pioneer-esque strategy. I gave due consideration to the Greek psychology (mine), which is based primarily on avoidance of shame. I thought of what was achievable and paced myself. To be specific, I made my way to a place within eyeshot of a teenager, who I had overheard telling her dad how she was training but just couldn’t take it seriously. Music to my ears. I stayed throughout the race within eyeshot and came away right smack in the middle of the 500-plus runner race. I feel good, red-faced and ready […]

Jim on WGBH – Housing

At 7 p.m. sharp (in three minutes), with David Wluka of the Massachusetts Association of Realtors and a developer who is seeking to use the market to produce housing for folks in the 65 to 80 % of median income range. Discussion covers: the continued impact of regulations that restrict supply; the arguments made by municipalities (impact on property values and, ugh, we cannot afford the schools costs that come with kids!); and how cities can address these issues (long-term contracts with municipal employees, pension reform, and insuring employees through the Group Insurance Commission). Munis, if you have problems, come to Pioneer.  We have the solutions.  Just look at what Springfield’s been able to accomplish.   5, 4, 3, 2, 1…

Give me a break – and a Happy Fourth

Over the weekend, someone was on the T griping about how people have started to say “Happy Fourth!” in that bright-eyed, bushy-tailed American way. I am sure my fellow rider was impressing her Eastern European-sounding interlocutor. Perhaps it is better to say “Enjoy the time off,” “I hope you enjoy the 4th with your family,” or something similar. But give me a break: Why not “Happy Fourth”? We are constitutionally constructed around the ideal of the pursuit of happiness as defined by citizens, so I think it is absolutely great to have a happy 4th, and I intend on doing just that — back in li’l old Cumberland, RI. Happiness on the Fourth in Cumberland means: A 4-mile footrace in […]

Revenge of the status quotists

In his letter to the editor (“Ed board shuffle: a lesson in irony,” July 2, 2007), Dan French trots out a number of myths long perpetuated by supporters of the status quo in education. He contends that Governor Weld packed the Board of Education, overlooking the fact that changes on the board had strong support from a Democratic Legislature alarmed at what was then the slow pace of education reform. Weld appointed John Silber as the chairman of the Board, who, notwithstanding the views some may have of him, was the largest vote-getter among recent Democratic gubernatorial candidates until Governor Patrick’s election last year. He contends that five of the nine members had ties to Pioneer or other free-market think […]

Progress after Education Reform

So the “revisionistas” (a.k.a. status quotists, special interests, etc.) are trotting out the view that Massachusetts’ school system was always the best in the country, even before the Ed Reform Act of 1993 (and before standardized testing, accountability and innovation through charters). As my 6th grade American Civics teacher used to say in his baritone drawl: That’s mullarky! See my previous post on the NAEP scores. How about Massachusetts’ performance on the SATs? As former Senate President Tom Birmingham, one of the architects of Ed Reform, noted at a November 06 Pioneer event entitled “Has Education Reform Stalled?” If you had told Weld or Roosevelt or me on that hot day in June 1993 that more than 90 percent of […]

Wrong again, Glenn – PI is for one accountability system (4 of 4)

Finally, in his letter to the Globe editor Glenn talks of districts balancing the state’s largest educational regulatory burden — a 14-tiered system of accountability, assessments, and accreditations — against severely restricted local budgets. He goes on with the preposterous: Pioneer cheerlead[s] for the bureaucracy that burdens the nation’s most overregulated public schools. As everyone knows, generally (though not always) Pioneer agrees with the view that micromanagement of localities should not be the state’s first course of action. There are too many mandates on the use of state funding (on HMOs, on businesses, etc.). Pioneer supports a single accountability system: the independent, district-wide and school-based accountability assessments performed by the Office of Educational Quality and Accountability (EQA). This morning we […]

What Glenn gets wrong – Ed Reform and progress (3 of 4)

I remember a rally in front of the State House when my daughter Teruha was only one or two. I lived on Beacon Hill back then, in a five-floor walkup. My legs were stronger, as were Ritsuko’s. Teruha was a champ and at that age would sleep on tables whenever we went out to eat, which was too often because I love to eat out, especially in the summer. It was hot out — I think it was June. My calm lass in my arms, I was headed to the Commons to play with a ball. But the open area was crowded with protesters, and the tract of Charles Street between the Public Garden and the Commons was lined with […]

What Glenn glosses over – GIC and better coverage for teachers (2 of 4)

Odd that, in his letter to the Globe editor (6/30/07), Glenn glosses over the part of the bulk purchasing proposal for teachers’ health insurance through the state Group Insurance Commission that should matter most to teachers. Here’s that (2) left hanging from the previous post: Purchasing teachers’ health insurance through the GIC = Better coverage for teachers Hate to raise that significant (for teachers) and perhaps pesky (for Glenn) fact, but as Allison Fraser and I pointed out in our Globe op-ed: smaller districts often have just one or two health plans, while GIC offers a dozen. Not a small matter for the folks who play an important role in how our kids do in school.

Where Glenn Koocher agrees – GIC cost sharing (1 of 4)

In a letter to the Globe editor yesterday, it seems that Glenn Koocher, ED of the MA Association of School Committees, thinks he disagrees with an op-ed (An avoidable teachers strike) published on Tuesday in the Globe by Allison Fraser and me. But he writes: Cost sharing of health insurance, a most contentious item, is but part of the task. Taking it off the bargaining table camouflages the real health and educational problem. Containing health costs at the provider level and managing inappropriate use of healthcare resources are equally effective strategies for controlling insurance costs. Exploring short- and long-term disability coverage can also help manage sick leave costs. So, it seems to me, he agrees that cost sharing is part […]

When you are wrong

Does the PTA really represent parents? After the PTA’s support of teacher strikes across the country in the 1960s, there was a significant drop in support for the organization. Across the country the number of PTA members has declined by more than half since the early 1960s from over 12 million to less than 6 million. The political bent of the PTA is not common knowledge to its membership, but as it becomes known–especially the PTA’s opposition to school choice, charters, and school reform–their membership has furthered declined. In the Commonwealth there are 1 million kids in K-12. There are 20,000 members of the PTA (down from a high of 100,000 in the 1960s). Only 3 percent of Massachusetts schools […]

When you are wrong, you are wrong. When you are right, you are right.

On NewsNight (NECN) last week, I wanted to communicate that the PTA is, as Jim Braude summarized, “a wholly owned subsidiary of the NEA.” He got my point, but I got my facts wrong. And I hate that. I said that the PTA headquarters was co-located with the National Education Association (NEA) HQ. In fact, as Lisa Guisbond pointed out to me in an email, the PTA HQ is in Chicago, not in DC like the NEA’s. I was referencing the fact that the PTA rented space within the NEA HQ from 1920 to 1953. I was off by 54 years – no small matter.  And I apologize for the mistake. The context for this mistake was a discussion about the […]

They call it Pioneer Valley for a reason, 2

So what has all the reform in the City of Springfield led to? Hundreds of jobs in the pipeline and tens of millions of dollars in private investment. You want to see the cold, hard facts on the progress? Good. Click here. Hard to imagine just a couple of years ago that we can now say without any possibility that someone would laugh – the City of Homes is the best managed large city in the Commonwealth. And with Ed Flynn at the helm of the Springfield Police, there is confidence that the public safety issues are going to be given the right kind of attention. If you are tired of the traffic, want access to great open space, and […]

They call it Pioneer Valley for a reason, 1

One of the standout winners at the 2007 Better Government Competition was the Municipal Leadership Award given to the City of Springfield (Mayor Charles Ryan) and the Finance Control Board. And, guys, the award was a no-brainer. Springfield went from a deficit of $41 million in FY05 to a surplus in FY06 (and 07) a free cash position of minus $41 million in FY04 to plus $10 million in FY06. Oops, but I am understating their progress, aren’t I? In the Springfield Republican of today, there is an article noting that the FC position is actually plus $17 million. And how was all this accomplished? Hmm. Perhaps it was the usual bellyaching about the need for a huge new cash […]

Unanimous SCOTUS: States can curb union use of dues for politics

The U.S. Supreme Court has unanimously supported the right of states to require unions to get permission from members before spending dues on political activities. The case, Davenport v. Washington Education Association (WEA), was brought by Gary Davenport and thousands more non-union Washington teachers.  They had opposed the unions chiefs’ use of their dues to support candidates and campaigns.  Important to note is that SCOTUS did not get into the larger question of whether union brass can automatically collect forced dues for politics from nonunion members in the first place. So if public employees are hoping to free themselves of compulsory dues — not happening.  Check out the decision here at the SCOTUSblog.  (Even they have one, so it is decidedly not cool anymore.)

Naples v. Massachusetts on the Seat Belt Freedom Index

Wearing your seat belt is a good idea. Full stop. Please do not write in telling me that I am urging people to break the law. I am simply recounting a story from 1986, the first time I ever stepped foot in Naples, Italy. Lots of people hate the place — chaotic, sometimes 3 people and furniture driving down the road on a moped, sometimes those mopeds on the sidewalk (but only when cars aren’t parked there)… There is the Mergellina district with heroine and, uh, other things. There is also one of the most beautiful bays and overlooks around, the best, best, best pizza, and there are beautiful women who actually read books (unlike in Rome). So, on balance, […]

Putting mother in the back seat

I adore my mother.  She complains this year that I put in too many tomato, cucumber, eggplant, pepper and basil and parsley plants in her backyard; I tell her that she still has way too much grass.  While she says she doesn’t mind, in the end, she doesn’t water the plants in that quiet revenge that mothers are so good at.  She cooks good stuff for everyone and stuffs the kids with baklava, so no one takes the complaints too far.  It’s called love.  Well, now, mother, whether you water the plants or not, you are going to have to sit in the back seat!  Seems that there is consideration being given to bill H 2361 requiring children smaller than 4’9″ sit in a booster […]

Two-fer from the Globe

Yesterday’s editorial in the Globe on the Governor’s veering away from support for MCAS was spot on. It’s a must read. Today, again, the right stuff and the right tone on the Quincy teachers’ strike (click here). The money quotes (not in the order presented in today’s paper) are: The Quincy strike — which was still under way as of yesterday evening — is illegal under state law, and should be ended immediately. Like municipal leaders across the state, Quincy Mayor William Phelan can’t keep asking the city’s taxpayers to pay the same share of escalating healthcare costs, which in Quincy have almost doubled since 2002. A bill before the Legislature would allow cities and towns to purchase insurance for […]

Market approaches to blogging

Subsequent to a number of emails on the post mentioning Tom Waits, which ranged from deranged and delightful to slightly frightful, I have decided to push the celebrity mention scheme for drawing traffic to the blog. Here goes: Paris Hilton Lindsay Lohan Brad Pitt George Clooney Please note that, henceforth, in accordance with Pioneer General Laws, Chapter 39B, Section 3(a)4.t: All blog entries forthwith must begin with, or within the first 17 1/2 words utilize celebrity names according to the provisions set forth in the present statute. No more than two names shall appear in the blog title, which shall appear at the top of the blog entry. Up to three names can appear in the first 17 1/2 words […]