Entries by Charles Chieppo

How Massachusetts Showed the Way on Education Reform

By Jamie Gass & Charles Chieppo Read this op-ed in The American Conservative We are now nearly four decades beyond the publication of A Nation at Risk, a federal report that indicted the “rising tide of mediocrity” and initiated a well-deserved period of hand-wringing about K-12 public education in the United States. Massachusetts was the only state to respond to the call to create a school system that would be among the best in the world. Sadly, now even the Bay State is retreating from the policies that delivered its historic success. The landmark Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993, which was entirely state-led, pushed academic content and high standards over the Bush I and Clinton administrations’ agenda of K-12 […]

Action on health care pricing transparency needed to stem rising costs

The Hill BY JIM STERGIOS AND CHARLES CHIEPPO, OPINION CONTRIBUTORS — 04/12/19 10:35 AM EDT A patient repeatedly tries to find out the price for a medical procedure. The hospital refuses, but eventually quotes the price as $5,500. But one health insurer’s website includes a page with price guidelines for various procedures. Seeing that the expected cost for the test he was to undergo was $550, the patient pulled off his identification bracelet and left the hospital. What makes this story stand out is that the patient was U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar. If even someone who’s so knowledgeable about the health care system struggles to gain access to price information, then discovers a hospital is charging 10 times the […]

Op-ed: Education establishment ruining reform

This op-ed appeared in the Boston Herald on Wednesday, November 29, 2017.  The history of education reform in Massachusetts over the past quarter century could be a case study in playing the long game. A 1993 law provided a massive increase in state funding in return for high standards, accountability and more choice. Teachers unions, school committees, superintendents and others in the education establishment liked the money, but not the reforms. They kept fighting, and less than 25 years later, little but the money remains. The sad thing is that the establishment’s success at eliminating reforms has brought a steep decline in the quality of public education in Massachusetts. Once the 1993 combination of money and reforms took hold, state […]

Op-ed: T must seize money-saving moment

Here’s another one for that bulging “It could only happen in Massachusetts” file. Outsourcing bus maintenance would save $11 million a year and bring three of the MBTA’s nine garages into the 21st century. The work would continue to be performed by the mechanics (albeit slightly fewer of them) who do it now, and they would remain members of the same union, earning among the highest salaries in the industry. A slam dunk, right? Not here. While Gov. Charlie Baker remains strongly behind the proposal, his appointees to the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board are reportedly wavering in the face of fierce opposition from the Machinists’ Union.  Read this full op-ed in the Boston Herald.

Op-ed: T privatization survives key union challenge

THE MBTA’S BUDGET SHORTFALL, once pegged at $335 million for the current fiscal year, is now down to $30 million.  That’s good news for riders, taxpayers, employers, and legislators—really everyone except the T’s unions.  Much of the savings is the result of a three-year exemption from the Commonwealth’s anti-privatization law that the authority was granted in the wake of its 2015 winter implosion. In June the MBTA unions got even worse news when an arbitrator ruled against them on a grievance they brought under Section 13(c) of the federal Urban Mass Transit Act. For years, the T unions have used 13(c) as a “get out of jail free” card when faced with even the most modest reform proposal.  Read more at […]

Op-ed: Neglect creates pension tsunami

A version of this op-ed appeared in The Berkshire Eagle, The Salem News, The Gloucester Times, the Patriot Ledger, The Brockton Enterprise, and The New Bedford Standard-Times. BOSTON — Moody’s Investors Service estimates that total U.S. state and local government pension unfunded liability will reach $1.75 trillion this year and the commonwealth is hardly immune from this alarming trend. The Massachusetts Teachers Pension Fund pays out over $2.6 billion in annual benefits and has barely half the money it needs to meet its long-term obligations. Many of the commonwealth’s more than 100 local pension systems are in a similar condition. This isn’t just a nightmare for the commonwealth, local governments and state taxpayers; more than 10 percent of all adults […]

Op-ed: Will DeVos avoid the Beltway education trap?

By Jim Stergios and Charles Chieppo Read this op-ed online at USA Today. Education nominee could improve on past secretaries by backing state and local innovation. Every administration since President George H.W. Bush’s has pinned its hopes of transforming American K-12 education on several thousand bureaucrats in the Lyndon B. Johnson Building in Washington, D.C. and the Beltway lobbyists perched on their doorstep. Betsy DeVos, president-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Education Department, needs a different plan. Given that the federal government contributes approximately 10% of the total spending in the nation’s sprawling, decentralized landscape of 100,000 public K-12 schools, it is neither plausible nor desirable that an Education secretary chase the chimera of a transformational national education policy. Arne Duncan’s seven years as President Obama’s secretary of Education were just the latest iteration […]

OpEd: Shine a light upon MBTA pension fund

By Mary Z. Connaughton and Charles Chieppo Guest Columnists Originally published in The Berkshire Eagle, the Milford Daily News, New Bedford Standard-Times, and The Lowell Sun. It would be easy just to shake your head and turn the page upon learning that the MBTA Retirement Fund (MBTARF) is underfunded by nearly $868 million. Unfortunately, you cannot. Every year, the pension plan receives tens of millions of state dollars that flow through the MBTA. The T, in turn, has a contractual obligation to bankroll three quarters of any shortfall. Read this entire article in The Berkshire Eagle, the Milford Daily News and the New Bedford Standard-Times.

COMMENTARY: More is needed to fix the MBTA

Read this op-ed in The Patriot Ledger, the Brockton Enterprise, the Fall River Herald News, the Taunton Gazette, the Salem News, the Gloucester Times, and The MetroWest Daily News. The budget lawmakers sent to Gov. Charlie Baker includes important new powers to reform the beleaguered MBTA, but ensuring an effective transit system will require additional common-sense policy changes in a pending transportation bill. The budget created the Fiscal and Management Control Board that Baker proposed and gave the MBTA a three-year exemption from the commonwealth’s anti-privatization law. These steps may improve service for 1.3 million transit riders, but they are insufficient for the momentous task ahead. That job requires that legislators protect current and retired transit employees’ pensions, eliminate union […]

Boston Herald: New convention center math

This article was published in the Boston Herald on June 9, 2014. Author: Charles Chieppo Rarely is state government’s dysfunction on display more than in the waning days of a legislative session. This time around, exhibit A is the rush to approve a $1.1 billion expansion of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (BCEC) despite enough red flags to fill the quarter-mile-long building. Apparently the $620 million the Massachusetts Convention Center Authorityclaims the BCEC and the Hynes Convention Centers pumped into the local economy last year makes it easy to set aside doubts. But a closer look at how the MCCA arrives at that estimate makes you realize why there are no real numbers in the convention industry. Convention centers are […]

WGBH News Commentary: Does Expanding The Convention Center Make Economic Sense?

By CHARLES CHIEPPO Date: April 10, 2014 Reasonable people can disagree about the wisdom of doubling the size of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (BCEC). But two things are indisputable: The expansion would not, as the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA) claims, pay for itself, and the convention industry is one that remains mired in decline. The original 1997 convention center finance plan levied a series of taxes, including a rental car surcharge, an additional tax on hotels in Boston and Cambridge and on tourist trolleys, to fund BCEC construction. Once BCEC bonds are paid off in 2034, those tax receipts could revert to the commonwealth. But expansion would push back the date when tax receipts could revert to the […]

Equal Treatment for All!

Just returned from a packed State House hearing on charter schools, which included enough material to fuel the blogosphere for the foreseeable future.   Due to the number of people wishing to testify, the education committee was unusually strict about enforcing a three-minute limit on individual testimony — which led to my personal favorite moment of the afternoon.  Sen. Marc Pacheco (D-Taunton),  the most unquestioning of public employee union supporters, railed against inequality, claiming charter schools call themselves public but are more like privates in their entrance requirements.  The alarm marking the end of his three minutes sounded.  Undaunted, he continued — this time accusing charters of busing people to the hearing and feeding them with public funds.  After all, the same rules should apply to everyone. The […]