Entries by Editorial Staff

Study Calls for Tying Additional State Education Aid to Reforms

Narrowing funding gap between high-income and less affluent districts should be focus of school funding formula update Contact Jamie Gass at jgass@pioneerinstitute.org Read coverage of this report in The Boston Globe and the Springfield Republican. BOSTON – Efforts to update the Commonwealth’s K-12 education funding formula should focus on narrowing the gap between affluent and low-income school districts and be accompanied by reforms designed to improve student outcomes and enhance accountability, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute. “Tying new money to high standards and accountability was the grand bargain at the heart of the Commonwealth’s successful 1993 Education Reform Act,” said Jamie Gass, director of Pioneer’s Center for School Reform, who co-authored “The Next Chapter of Education […]

Pioneer Alert: Supreme Court Will Rule on Highly Significant School Choice Case

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) announced that it would hear Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, a case that reveals the harm a state Blaine, or anti-aid, constitutional amendment marked by religious bias does to families by depriving them of educational options. This case has particular relevance to Massachusetts, which is one of the nearly 40 states with anti-aid amendments that have roots in 19th-century anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant discrimination.     Kendra Espinoza, a single mom from Montana, sought a better education for her daughters. In public school, one daughter was bullied and the other struggled academically. Both would later thrive in a parochial school. After the Montana Supreme Court struck down her state’s education tax credit program, Ms. Espinoza was denied access to the scholarships her […]

New Report Addresses Distinct Challenges in Utilizing ICER to Assess Value of Rare Disease Treatments

Pioneer Institute Discourages Policymakers & Payers from Adopting ICER to Evaluate Rare Disease Treatments Media inquiries: Contact Micaela Dawson, 617-723-2277 ext. 203 or mdawson@pioneerinstitute.org BOSTON, MA – Today, Pioneer Institute released a new report, Looming Challenges for ICER in Assessing the Value of Rare Disease Therapies, that examines why the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER) and the Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALY) approach to value assessment is particularly ill-suited to assess the cost-effectiveness of orphan and rare disease treatments, which represent a rapidly growing sector of the biopharmaceutical marketplace. In the report, lead author and Pioneer Institute Visiting Fellow in Life Sciences, Dr. William Smith illustrates a number of reasons why ICER is unfit to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of rare […]

Pioneer Institute Public Statement: A Season for Management Reforms

The MBTA’s red and green line derailments this week highlight the system’s troubling condition and its impact on riders’ productivity and quality of life. We at Pioneer – most of us are regular riders – understand how vital the T is to our economy. Through many administrations, Pioneer has advocated for policymakers to address the T’s performance issues, stemming from decades of insufficient maintenance, poor management structure, and lack of a clear investment strategy. February 2015 brought nine feet of snow in a single month, laying bare the T’s inability to plan and execute at the most basic level. Only two weeks into those storms, Pioneer issued a public statement that outlined reforms that would be passed in July of that […]

Study Finds Student Growth Percentile Is Unreliable, Limits Access to Charter Public Schools

High degree of error, especially in small school districts, leads to small districts replacing larger ones in bottom 10 percent BOSTON – The Student Growth Percentile (SGP) that the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) now uses as 25 percent of the formula for determining school district rankings has a high degree of error. While the SGP may have a role to play as part of discussions around holding districts accountable for performance, it should not be used for high-stakes policy decisions, including which districts are eligible for an increase in the charter public school cap, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute. A 2010 state law requires DESE to rank school district performance.  Districts in […]

Pioneer Public Statement on Legislative Demise of New Bedford Charter School Deal

This past week, in a display of the state’s teacher unions’ raw political power triumphing over deliberative debate, reasonableness, and the best interests of urban students, the Legislature quietly discarded state education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley’s bold effort at compromise in the ongoing saga over the Alma del Mar Charter School’s expansion in New Bedford. The Boston Globe editorial board rightfully awarded Beacon Hill a grade of “F” for its lack of political courage in moving forward with the Commissioner’s New Bedford charter proposal. The 26 years since passage of the landmark 1993 Massachusetts Education Reform Act (MERA) have brought broad-based success. Charter schools have been a big part of that success, especially in larger urban districts. As numerous gold-standard research studies have […]

Pioneer Institute Public Statement on UMass Financial Oversight

Contact Micaela Dawson, 617-723-2277 ext. 203 or mdawson@pioneerinstitute.org Pioneer Institute is disappointed that University of Massachusetts leadership refuses to join with Pioneer to request that the State Comptroller’s Office audit the university’s financial oversight. In the wake of a report finding that UMass President Marty Meehan and the university’s board of trustees bear the bulk of responsibility for the recent budget crisis at UMass Boston, and after the UMass President’s Office requested a meeting with Pioneer staff to discuss the report, Pioneer offered to meet with President Meehan, university finance staff, State Comptroller Andrew W. Maylor, and his Director of Financial Reporting Michael Rodino. The Pioneer study, “Fiscal Crisis at UMass Boston: The True Story and the Scapegoating,” authored by Greg Sullivan and […]

Study Finds UMass Leadership – Not Campus Administrators – Bears Primary Responsibility for UMass Boston Budget Woes

University board approved irresponsible campus spending based on faulty projections, then required UMass Boston to replenish reserves Read early coverage of this report in the Boston Herald and here, The Boston Business Journal , WCVB-TV, MassLive, the Dorchester Reporter. Bay State Banner, and Bloomberg Radio. Contact Micaela Dawson, 617-723-2277 ext. 203 or mdawson@pioneerinstitute.org BOSTON – While the blame fell on former UMass Boston Chancellor Keith Motley, the UMass Board of Trustees and President bear the bulk of the responsibility for the recent budget crisis at UMass Boston due to a lack of oversight of the campus’s capital expenditures, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute. “A more accurate description of the UMass-Boston budget crisis is that the UMass Board […]

Nationally Syndicated Columnist George Will Covers Pioneer’s SCOTUS Amicus Brief Topic on School Choice

For many years, Pioneer Institute has been a leader in the effort to repeal the Blaine Amendments, legal barriers in Massachusetts and nearly 40 other states that prevent more underprivileged schoolchildren from being able to attend religiously affiliated schools. Now, nationally syndicated columnist George Will is lending his powerful voice to this important cause with a Washington Post op-ed calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to repeal these harmful amendments. In his column, Will echoes points Pioneer has raised many times over the years (most recently in The Daily Caller), exposing the ugly roots of opposition to school choice: 19th-century anti-Catholic bigotry promoted by the Know-Nothing Party and later in that century by corrupt GOP leader, James Blaine, “the continental liar from […]

Moving Forward into the Future: Enter the Better Government Competition

Summer 2019 is starting and so far, the year has been full of surprises. Here at Pioneer, we’ve looking closely at how to move people and goods now, soon, and in the years to come. Through our Better Government Competition, we’re gathering ideas from around the country. Below are just some of the biggest headlines of 2019, and challenges related to how we’ll keep moving forward. Send us your ideas to improve transportation – you could win $10,000! This year Amazon Prime has started delivering its own packages (and possibly others as well), which means that by the end of 2019 there will be more delivery trucks on the road, perhaps fewer people driving to shop, and new traffic challenges. […]

Presenting Pioneer’s New Annual Report: “Shaping Our Future”

We at Pioneer Institute work every day to promote policies that result in better school options, broader access to affordable healthcare, improved public services and infrastructure, and a more attractive climate for innovators and capital. In Pioneer’s 2018 Annual Report (available to download or view online here), we share our work to drive this agenda in the Commonwealth and across the country. We share progress at the MBTA, even as much work remains. And we share success in expanding economic opportunity. Download Pioneer Institute’s 2018 Annual Report or visit our online version. In this report back to you, our community of supporters, we change our format to focus on impact. We do this understanding that we cannot control the future […]

Public statement on new federal rule eliminating “skimming” of dues from caregivers’ Medicaid payments

Pioneer Institute applauds a new rule announced by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that prohibits state governments from automatically deducting union dues from Medicaid payments intended for those caring for loved ones or relatives. Prior to this action, 13 states (including Massachusetts) classified individuals who take care of relatives and/or loved ones as public employees. A 2014 rule gave unions the ability to collect dues from Medicaid payments made to these caregivers, supposedly to provide benefits including health insurance and skills training. In an August 2018 comment jointly submitted with other think tanks, Pioneer wrote that allowing diversion of Medicaid funds to third parties, like unions, presents risk of abuse and may result in Medicaid funds […]

Making Healthcare Prices Accessible

Today, Pioneer Institute filed a Public Comment with the federal government urging the U.S.  Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to launch a much-needed national effort to make healthcare price transparency consumer friendly and easily accessible to both insured and uninsured consumers around the country. The Pioneer Comment was filed in response to a proposed rulemaking by HHS that seeks to improve the availability of actual healthcare prices, including  prices that insurers and hospitals negotiate. Pioneer informed HHS of its numerous surveys and studies that demonstrate how difficult it is for consumers to obtain healthcare prices before services are obtained. Jim Stergios, Pioneer’s Executive Director, said “Suppressing price information leads to the inevitable result that healthcare dollars are misallocated because price […]

A Rational Voice on the State of American Higher Education and the Cost Crisis

At a time of increasing disruption in the higher education marketplace, Pioneer Institute is working to ensure that our 2-, 4- and advanced degree-granting institutions — which are the envy of the world — innovate and address spiraling tuition costs. Too many students — 1 in 8 — are grappling with overwhelming college loan debt. Some smaller private colleges are struggling to survive or right-size in recognition of shrinking demand. Meanwhile public institutions suffer from an acute case of “empire building,” erecting new dorms and building out residential services that will require billions of additional dollars, even as the Commonwealth’s high school graduating classes are declining in number. Too often the proposals put forth are poorly crafted and aimed at political ends rather […]

Pioneer Institute Files Amicus Brief Urging Supreme Court to Hear School Choice Case

Claims amendment to Montana Constitution motivated by anti-Catholic bias Contact Micaela Dawson, 617-723-2277 ext. 203 or mdawson@pioneerinstitute.org BOSTON – Pioneer Institute today announced that it has submitted an amicus curiae urging the United States Supreme Court to hear Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, which challenges a state constitutional amendment marked by religious bias. The amendment in question is a so-called Blaine amendment. It prohibits public resources from flowing to individuals to send their children to religiously affiliated schools, preventing Catholics and immigrants from receiving the kind of education that would enable them to become successful. In the Espinoza case, Kendra Espinoza, a suddenly-single mom, sought a better education for her daughters. In public school, one daughter was bullied and the other struggled in her classes. Both children would later thrive in […]

Three Cheers for the MBTA’s Perq Commuter Benefits Program

Late last year, the MBTA rolled out a promotional campaign to rebrand the 45-year-old Corporate Pass Program with a new name (Perq), a new website, special fare cards and plenty of information to help employers and employees sign up for the commuter benefit program. The program allows employees to save up to 40 percent by using pre-tax dollars to pay for their commuter expenses. Pioneer Institute congratulates MBTA leadership for invigorated emphasis on this program, which provides approximately 30 percent of the T’s fare revenue. The 2018 Pioneer Institute white paper, “Increasing MBTA Ridership and Revenues with Company Commuter Benefit Programs,” found that a 20 percent jump in employer and employee participation could increase annual revenue by $70 million. Unlike most proposals […]

New Study Urges State to Slow Down, Rethink Proposal to Protect Students from College Closings

Board of Higher Education proposal risks “false positives” that could doom colleges, creates potential conflict, and ignores ongoing federal process Read coverage of this report in the Chronicle of Higher Education. BOSTON – The Baker administration and the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education (BHE) should slow down a fast-tracked proposal to protect students from sudden, unexpected college closings such as what occurred at Mt. Ida College, and use the time to rethink its proposal from top to bottom, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute. “This is a serious problem that will only get worse.  By 2017, the rate of closures or mergers among non-profit private colleges was twice the 2004-14 average,” said Greg Sullivan, author of A Risky Proposal […]

ICYMI: U.S. HHS Secretary Alex Azar’s Remarks on Healthcare Price Transparency, Opioid Crisis, HIV Epidemic & More

This past Monday, Pioneer held the 13th annual Hewitt Healthcare Lecture to honor our longtime chairman (and chairman of Beth Israel Deaconess) Colby Hewitt, Jr. The crowd of 250 enjoyed a substantive and fun night — the two can go together! — at Harvard Medical School’s Joseph B. Martin Conference Center.  The 2019 Hewitt Keynote Speaker, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar II engaged in an open-format conversation with Pioneer Senior Fellow Josh Archambault, and he covered a lot of ground. In the clips below, you’ll hear noteworthy remarks on a number of fronts: price transparency, opioids, HIV/AIDs, pharmaceutical pricing, protecting Medicare, and much more. We hope you enjoy the discussion. The full fireside chat with Secretary Azar is available below. You can […]

U.S. HHS Secretary Alex Azar to Be Featured Speaker at Pioneer Institute’s 2019 Hewitt Healthcare Lecture

BOSTON – Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Alex M. Azar II will be the featured speaker at Pioneer Institute’s 2019 Hewitt Healthcare Lecture tonight (Monday, April 8th) on “the Future of Healthcare in America.” Secretary Azar will share his vision for value-based care transformation and how it will impact healthcare in the state of Massachusetts and discuss his ambitious reform agenda. Secretary Azar has spent his career working in senior healthcare leadership roles in both the public and private sectors.  From 2001 to 2007, he was general counsel and then deputy secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services.  Earlier in his career, Azar clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and then […]

Prepare for Town Budget Season with MassWatch

Online tools to understand your community’s financial condition &  so much more! Town budget season is upon us. Pioneer Institute’s MassAnalysis makes it easy to be well-prepared with the right questions to ask! MassAnalysis is one of Pioneer’s suite of online databases, known as MassWatch, that provide the tools you need to better understand your state and local government. MassAnalysis provides you with historic financial information on your community and allows you to benchmark your town’s performance against its peer communities. The site provides you with information on education, employment, crime, transportation, and demographics that you can use for benchmarking, as well. For sample questions for municipal departments and budgeting tips, download Pioneer Institute’s Guide to Sound Fiscal Management for Municipalities for […]

Some Public, Private MA Universities Adapting to Rise of Tech in Finance Industry, but Students Still Insufficiently Prepared

New report recommends establishing additional coursework, certification and degree-program tracks addressing fintech Media inquiries: contact Micaela Dawson at 617-723-2277 ext. 203 or mdawson@pioneerinstitute.org BOSTON – A new report by Pioneer Institute shows that while the finance and insurance industries are changing rapidly, course requirements and skill-building opportunities at Massachusetts higher education institutions are still evolving to meet job demands, presenting an opportunity for state higher education institutions to create programs that give Massachusetts students a competitive edge in the age of fintech – diverse digital technology changes impacting banking, insurance, and other sectors of the finance industry. In Preparing Students for a Future in Fintech, Eamon McCarthy Earls argues that colleges and universities must adapt their business and computer science […]

State DPH Continues to Deny Private School Students Millions in School Nurse Services

State should establish a fund to provide partial support for health services for private and parochial schools     Media inquiries: Contact Jamie Gass, 617-723-2277 ext. 210 or jgass@pioneerinstitute.org BOSTON – Private and parochial school students in Massachusetts have been denied well over $10 million in school nursing services to which they are entitled under state law, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute. In 1993, the state Department of Public Health (DPH) established the Essential School Health Services (ESHS) program, which provides competitive grants to local school districts. Since 2002, districts should have then allocated a proportional share of the grant to private and parochial schools within their boundaries, based on enrollment. Video: Authors of New Pioneer Report Discuss […]

Public Statement: A Responsible Reply to the Fall River Superintendent’s Comments

In a recent opinion piece, Charlie Chieppo, a Pioneer Senior Fellow, and Jamie Gass, the director of PioneerEducation, argued that Massachusetts state government should consider requiring that it be able to appoint school committee members in underperforming districts in a number proportional to the percentage of state funding contributed to a district’s school budget. The idea was floated because, more than 25 years after the passage of the Education Reform Act and the state’s investment of over a hundred billion dollars, a number of larger urban districts have not significantly improved the quality of their public education. In response to Pioneer’s op-ed, former Massachusetts Education Secretary and current Fall River Superintendent Matt Malone noted on Twitter: Blah Blah #Bozos big […]

Pioneer Institute Celebrates Sunshine Week 2019

Sunshine Week is dedicated to bringing greater awareness to the importance of government transparency and to highlighting areas where improvement is needed. After all, a healthy democracy is unsustainable unless people are fully informed and can meaningfully engage in the democratic process. To celebrate Sunshine Week, each year Pioneer reviews some of its recent work to bring greater public accountability to Massachusetts government. Our objective is for the Commonwealth to rank among the nation’s most transparent states. Sadly, in its latest rankings, the Center for Public Integrity placed Massachusetts among the worst states for public records access. While there has been some progress since then to bring sunshine to Beacon Hill, many would say a persistent gray cloud looms over […]

Study Finds Massachusetts Lagging on Transparency of Public Official Statements of Financial Interest

A few simple changes would update system, improve transparency Read coverage of this report in State House News Service. BOSTON – Despite some recent progress, a new policy brief published by Pioneer Institute finds there is more to do if the Commonwealth is to make the Statements of Financial Interest (SFIs) that public officials file annually truly accessible to Massachusetts citizens. “With just a few critical changes, Massachusetts could progress from maintaining one of the least transparent and least constituent-friendly financial disclosure regimes in the nation to becoming a national leader in the accessibility and usefulness of its public officials’ Statements of Financial Interest.” Said Mary Connaughton, co-author of “Outdated and Obfuscated:  The State of Public Financial Disclosure in Massachusetts.” All […]

New Study Finds Multiple Problems with Push for Social-Emotional Learning in K-12 Education

Little research evidence for, or objective, reliable way to measure SEL’s efficacy; raises significant concerns about student health and privacy BOSTON – Social-emotional learning (SEL) has been billed as a transformational tool that will propel students to greater academic achievement and personal fulfillment.  Unfortunately, as a new Pioneer Institute study makes clear, the research evidence to back up these claims is thin and unpersuasive. Moreover, the risks SEL poses to student privacy and health are significant. Proponents of SEL call for focusing less on academic content and knowledge in schools, and more on student attributes, mindsets, values, and behaviors. Not only are the goals of SEL ill-defined, but they also raise significant, unanswered questions about what attitudes should be promoted. […]

Teacher Unions Support Progressive Taxation, but Maintain Flat-Rate Membership Dues Structure

Study shows lowest-paid teachers can pay up to 140 percent more of their salary than highest-paid teachers in membership dues BOSTON – A new study published by Pioneer Institute finds that despite backing progressive taxation initiatives, Massachusetts teacher unions use regressive methods to collect revenue from their own members. “The Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) was the top contributor to a failed initiative to establish a graduated income tax in 2018,” said Pioneer Executive Director Jim Stergios.  “They have been part of similar efforts numerous times in the past and are again supportive of a new effort to do so this year.  Yet their members all pay flat dues, regardless of annual salary.” In “Unions Are Not Progressive When It Comes […]

Whistleblowers Were Proven Right: MBTARF Was Underreporting Its Unfunded Pension Liabilities

In a new brief, Pioneer shows that whistleblowers’ 2015 claim that the MBTA Retirement Fund (MBTARF) had been underreporting its unfunded pension liabilities has proven to have been accurate. In their study, Boston University Professor Mark T. Williams and Bernie Madoff whistleblower Harry Markopo­los outlined three specific ways in which the T pension fund was underreporting its liability. Pioneer’s scorecard shows that they were right on all three counts, adding up to a total of $280 million in underreported pension liability. At the time, MBTARF vigorously refuted the validity of the findings. Spokesman Steve Crawford said, “The fund stands by its reported investment returns and by its asset and liability calculations,” and that “MBTA retirees and beneficiaries can be confident that […]

Pioneer Institute Public Statement on the MBTA’s Proposal to Increase Fares by 6.3 Percent

While Pioneer Institute opposed the 2016 MBTA fare increases, the Institute believes that the T has earned an increase in fares of 6.3 percent, provided it is committed to introduce differential pricing, address chronic fare non-collection, fix the T’s faltering pension system, and focus investments on key service upgrades.  These commitments would modernize fare-setting and mitigate the negative impact of fare increases, ensure that the additional fare revenues are actually going to service improvements, and lay the groundwork for greater fare revenue generation through increased ridership. In opposing the 2016 fare increase of 9.3 percent, we noted: “Fare increases should be linked to demonstrable service improvements. The customer must also come first when it comes to fare increases. The T […]

Study Finds Patient Cost for MRI Largely Unrelated to Overall Price or Insurer Contribution at 14 MA Hospitals

Read coverage of this report in WCVB-TV, Boston Herald, the Boston Business Journal, the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, and FierceHealthcare. Authors recommend greater transparency and financial incentives for patients to choose lower-cost, high-value providers BOSTON – There is little correlation between a patient’s out-of-pocket cost and either the amount insurers pay or the overall price of a procedure at 14 representative Massachusetts hospitals, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute. “Even if patients don’t see differences in out-of-pocket prices among hospitals, higher utilization of more expensive providers drives up the cost of care, which puts upward pressure on insurance premiums,” said Barbara Anthony, co-author of “Wildly Varying MRI Prices at Massachusetts Hospitals: Why We Need Access to Healthcare Prices […]