Entries by Editorial Staff

Study: After Janus, Public Employees Should Only Pay Union Dues, Fees After Knowing, Intelligent Waiver

Public Employers Should Immediately Stop Collecting Agency Fees from Non-Union Members Unless Employees Effectuate Valid Waiver of First Amendment Rights BOSTON – In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 Janus decision, public employers should inform all employees of their right not to pay union dues or agency fees, and such dues and fees should be paid only after a knowing and intelligent waiver of their First Amendment rights, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute. In Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the Court ruled that an Illinois public employee who chose not to join his union could not be required to pay an “agency fee” that covers collective bargaining costs […]

Study: Financial Impact of Charter Schools Depends on Percentage of Funding Districts Receive from State

“Foundation” districts unaffected, but charter tuition may cause strain for fast-growing “above-foundation” school districts Contact Jamie Gass, 617-723-2277 ext. 210 or jgass@pioneerinstitute.org BOSTON – At a time when the funding of charter schools is widely debated, a new Pioneer Institute study finds that foundation districts are largely unaffected by students who choose to transfer to charter schools. “So-called foundation districts receive most of their funding from the state, which means that the state effectively pays the tuition when students choose charters,” said Dr. Cara Stillings Candal, who co-authored “Charter School Funding in Massachusetts: A Primer” with Professor Ken Ardon. “But they can impact ‘above-foundation’ districts, particularly those that experience rapid enrollment growth.” Watch: Dr. Cara Stillings Candal, Pioneer Institute Senior Fellow, explains […]

Our Government Transparency Resolutions for 2019

Government transparency has already suffered two major blows in 2019. First, a special legislative commission charged with making recommendations on the legislature’s and governor’s exemptions from public records law failed to reach consensus on a long-awaited report on improvements.> Second, Mr. Transparency himself, State Comptroller Tom Shack, the driver behind CTHRU, the state’s highly acclaimed spending transparency website, announced he was leaving state service. The recent state police overtime scandals came to light when journalists reviewed CTHRU. Historically, Massachusetts has ranked at or near rock bottom nationally in terms of open government, with one of the chief reasons being the legislature’s exemptions from open meeting and public records law. It’s time to change that and it will be up to the […]

Study Urges Caution Before Adopting ICER Reviews to Determine Cost Effectiveness of Treatments

Review methodology could negatively impact elderly, the disabled, cancer patients and those with rare diseases Media inquiries: Contact Micaela Dawson, 617-723-2277 ext. 203 or mdawson@pioneerinstitute.org BOSTON – As states continue to grapple with prescription drug costs, a new Pioneer Institute study lays out the key ethical, methodological and disease-specific questions policy makers should address before deciding whether to contract with the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER) to conduct cost effectiveness reviews used to make decisions about the purchase of medicines and other medical innovations. ICER utilizes Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALYs), a controversial evaluation technique that assigns an economic value to the longevity and quality of human life. “The use of the QALY standard in the United Kingdom resulted […]

Saluting a Fine Public Servant

State comptroller isn’t a job that’s very familiar to the average Massachusetts resident, but during his tenure, Tom Shack has shown just how important and impactful the position can be.  As he departs the office, he deserves kudos for his good work. Soon after his appointment in 2015, Tom recognized the need to improve state government transparency.  Although providing a transparency site wasn’t a statutory responsibility of comptroller, he felt compelled to research solutions to provide the Commonwealth’s citizens with a state of the art, intuitive, and user-friendly platform to get more eyes on state data. In September 2016, CTHRU successfully debuted.  It took just seven months to develop and cost far less to procure and maintain compared to its […]

Public Statement on Alma del Mar Charter School Expansion

Last night, Jeffrey Riley, the Massachusetts Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) made a recommendation concerning Alma del Mar Charter School’s application to serve 1,188 more students in New Bedford. Commissioner Riley is recommending that Alma be expanded to serve 450 more students, that the school accept students from a neighborhood rather than through the usual district-wide lottery system, and that the New Bedford district make one of its underutilized buildings available to Alma. As these maneuvers are outside the bounds of the Department’s power and the statutes related to charter school approvals, they will require approval by the city and state legislature. Should the politicos fail to get behind the necessary compromises, the Commissioner will likely have to put […]

Study: After-School Programs Can Help Improve Flat or Declining Math Achievement

Philanthropic, other organizations should consider providing financial assistance to allow programs to expand into lower-income communities BOSTON – At a time of declining state and national math proficiency, after-school math programs offer a viable option for quickly increasing the number of mathematically competent students, according to a new Pioneer Institute study that profiles two such programs: Kumon and the Russian School of Mathematics (RSM). “Given the disappointing state of math education in American public schools, after-school math programs could play a particularly important role,” said Ze’ev Wurman, co-author with William Donovan, of “Axioms of Excellence: Kumon and the Russian School of Mathematics.” For the first time since 1990, fourth- and eighth-grade math scores fell on the 2015 National Assessment of Educational […]

Press Release: Pioneer Institute Filed Amicus Brief in Case Applying Supreme Court’s Janus Ruling to MA

BOSTON – On January 8th, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court will hear oral arguments in the case of Ben Branch v. Commonwealth Employment Relations Board, in which the SJC will decide how the United States Supreme Court’s June 2018 decision in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) will affect Massachusetts law. Pioneer Institute, through its public interest law arm, PioneerLegal, has filed an amicus curiae brief in the case prepared by WilmerHale’s Mark Matuschak and Robert Kingsley Smith. Professor Ben Branch has taught for 38 years at UMass Amherst’s Isenberg School of Management. For decades, he has objected to having to pay compulsory service fees. To stop having to pay without consent, Dr. Branch and three other non-union educators brought the lawsuit now before […]

Announcing Pioneer Institute’s 2019 Better Government Competition: “Moving People & Goods Forward”

America is a country on the move. Our economy and quality of life depend on the effectiveness of our transportation systems. State, local, and federal governments invest hundreds of billions of dollars each year in transportation infrastructure, yet we continue to waste hours in traffic, arrive late for work and medical appointments, and miss out on family time. America is the fifth most congested country in the world, and Boston is the nation’s seventh most congested city. As economies grow increasingly oriented toward metropolitan areas, these challenges will intensify. Pioneer Institute’s 2019 Better Government Competition is focused on ideas that get commuters to where they need to go conveniently and reliably, and transform our transportation system from a constraint on […]

Happy New Year, from Pioneer Institute!

As we ring in 2019, we at Pioneer Institute thank all of you, especially our supporters, for the privilege of hosting public forums with experts and engaging speakers; publishing evidence-based research on the most important public policy issues of the day; and making progress toward better schools, more efficient and accountable government, more affordable healthcare, and a more prosperous economy.  Through our growing media presence, we’ve reached millions of readers, viewers, and listeners – and we hope you’ll help us spread our message of opportunity to even more in the new year!

A Win for Commuters

We are thrilled that the MBTA is moving forward to expand its corporate pass program (CPP) as recommended by Pioneer Institute in January. Pioneer believes the program has great potential to increase both ridership and revenue. The MBTA’s corporate pass program allows employees to purchase T passes through their employers with pre-tax dollars, which in turn reduces employee taxable income and employers’ payroll taxes. The program allows companies to subsidize passes for employees as a pre-tax benefit. The goal is to incentivize more people to use public transportation and improve the environment. Everybody wins. Under commuter benefit programs, employers can provide their employees with a tax-free transit subsidy and/or exclude from taxable wages a total of up to $260 monthly. These benefits can cut employee […]

Moving the MBTA Forward

We are pleased that former Pioneer Institute Research Director Steve Poftak has been named the next General Manager of the MBTA. While at Pioneer, Steve oversaw and directly authored a high-quality portfolio of research that spanned from transportation and infrastructure to pension and other state and local post-employment liabilities. Pioneer has long been committed to advancing excellent mobility options for all residents and visitors, including a wide range of public transit services. After the T melted down in reaction to the winter of 2015’s record snowfall, the Institute combined academic-quality research with efforts to educate the public on a series of timely reforms, starting with our proposal to create a Fiscal and Management Control Board and including changes to the T’s sick time policy, troubled pension […]

Leading Public Intellectual Steven Pinker to Headline 2018 Lovett C. Peters Lecture in Public Policy

Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard, Bestselling Author to Be Honored at Pioneer Gala & 30th Anniversary Celebration Contact Micaela Dawson, 617-723-2277 ext. 203 or mdawson@pioneerinstitute.org BOSTON – Tonight, Dr. Steven Pinker, Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, will provide the keynote remarks at Pioneer Institute’s 2018 Lovett C. Peters Lecture in Public Policy, “Seeming Turmoil in a World of Progress.” Before an audience of over 200 Pioneer supporters, Professor Pinker will share findings from his new book on the empirical evidence of global progress. “It’s easy to get caught up in the negative news cycle and succumb to the notion that the world is in crisis,” said Jim Stergios, Pioneer Institute Executive Director. “Dr. Pinker offers […]

Review of MBTA Twitter Alerts Finds Fewer “Delayed” Trains, Corresponding Increase in Those “Running Behind”

BOSTON – A review of four years of MBTA commuter rail Twitter alerts reveals that the number of trains that are “delayed” has fallen, but there is a commensurate increase in the number of trains classified as “running behind,” leaving the overall number of late trains largely unchanged. “While the terminology has changed, it appears the performance hasn’t,” said Kaila Webb, author of “Commuter Rail Twitter Reveals History of Delays.”  “To a commuter on his or her way to Boston, it doesn’t really matter what the MBTA calls its tardiness.” The MBTA has made no public, written announcement differentiating trains that are running behind from those that are delayed. The T reached out to Pioneer to explain that the change […]

Public Statement on MBTA Ridership & Pension Costs

Monday’s meeting of the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board brought bad news on two fronts:  T ridership is down and pension costs are up.  Neither is a new problem, but both will require bold action to fix. Specifically, ridership was down 2 percent in the first quarter of the current fiscal year.  As a result, fare revenue came in more than 3 percent below projections.  In comments on the MBTA’s Draft Strategic Plan, Pioneer called for making increased ridership the document’s organizing principle, because it would result in more revenue, bring environmental benefits, and reduce traffic congestion.  To achieve those goals, the T must view all potential projects through a ridership lens, which means focusing on Red and Orange […]

New Bedford Mayor Flip-Flops on Charter Support

The Wall Street Journal recently highlighted New Bedford’s fight over the expansion of a highly successful Southcoast charter public school, Alma del Mar. In the last few months, New Bedford’s mayor Jon Mitchell has channeled his inner, vengeful Captain Ahab to vocally rally charter school opposition among his city’s educational special interest groups (here, here, and here). But as this 2016 video from New Bedford local access cable demonstrates, not long ago Mayor Mitchell was singing a very different tune as he gushed about Alma del Mar charter and the school’s outstanding leader Will Gardner at this charter school’s ribbon cutting ceremony. Video: Pioneer Senior Fellow Cara Stillings Candal on the Fight for Alma del Mar Dr. Cara Stillings Candal, […]

The Roger Perry Internship Program

Pioneer has established the Roger Perry Internship Program to support college-age students who seek opportunities to enhance their educational experience with practical training in an energetic and creative public policy environment.

“Catch-22” of State Prevailing Wage Law Prevents Flagger Reform from Achieving Significant Savings

State law sets prevailing wage at highest collectively bargained rate, which ties civilian flagger pay rates to police detail rates Read about this report in the Boston Herald. BOSTON – The unusual way in which Massachusetts determines prevailing wages and the fact that civilian flaggers are subject to state prevailing wage law explain why a 2008 law that ended the Commonwealth’s status as the only state to require police at road construction projects has failed to generate substantial savings, according to a new policy brief published by Pioneer Institute. Massachusetts is one of just five states to stipulate that prevailing wage – which establishes pay rates on public construction projects – be set at a level at least equal to rates […]

Happy Thanksgiving from Pioneer Institute!

As we celebrate Thanksgiving, a distinctly American tradition, let us enjoy the company of friends and family, and reflect on the many reasons we have to be grateful. Pioneer is thankful for your continued support and the amazing generosity that our community has shown the Institute. Your commitment to our mission makes it possible for us to advance ideas that elevate the public conversation and reforms that improve the quality of life for all residents of the Commonwealth. We wish you a happy Thanksgiving! Click here to make a tax-deductible contribution to support Pioneer.

Co-author of Landmark Longfellow Bridge Study Optimistic about State Infrastructure Maintenance Investments

BOSTON – Reconstruction of the Longfellow Bridge is now complete, and the co-author of a landmark study about the Longfellow’s restoration sees reasons to be optimistic that the Commonwealth is becoming more responsible about maintaining its infrastructure assets, according to a new Policy Brief published by Pioneer Institute. “The Longfellow Bridge was like a family pet who had been left out in the cold overnight,” said Dr. Dave Westerling, author of “Looking Back at Longfellow Bridge.”  “Thankfully, the experience seems to have sparked awareness of just what a bad idea that is.” In “Our Legacy of Neglect: The Longfellow Bridge and the Cost of Deferred Maintenance,” published in 2007 on the 100th anniversary of the bridge’s opening, Dr. Westerling and […]

The Future of Transportation in the Commonwealth

Taking advantage of the public comment period, Pioneer Institute is today releasing its recommendations to the Governor’s Commission on the Future of Transportation.  The suggestions cover governance, budgeting and operations, the role of public transit during a period of transformative change and maintaining a focus on increasing MBTA ridership. In terms of governance, Pioneer recommends combining “tight” oversight structures such as the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board for each MassDOT agency, and a “loose” board composed of the chairs of each agency board to coordinate operations. When it comes to budgeting and operations, transportation agencies should be empowered to seek efficiencies and pursue innovation.  To eliminate massive backlogs and improve service, maintenance should be the top priority within agency […]

Study Finds Vast Majority of Teacher Union Dues Fund State and National Affiliates

Local MTA affiliates that conduct collective bargaining negotiations retain average of just 16 percent of dues revenue BOSTON – Just 16 percent of dues paid by the average member of a union affiliated with the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) actually goes to their local association, while the remaining 84 percent flows to the state (MTA) and national (National Education Association) organizations, according to a new policy brief published by Pioneer Institute. “While collective bargaining negotiations, the primary benefit the union provides, occur at the local association level, the majority of dues are sent to the state and national unions,” said Rebekah Paxton, author of “Where Do Teacher Union Dues Go?”  “If only 16 percent of annual dues are retained at […]

Marking the Centennial of the Armistice of the First World War

November 11th marks the 100th anniversary of the Armistice of the First World War. America’s first engagement as a major global actor, the rise of German militarism and the Soviet Union, and the geographic boundaries of the Middle East, are only some of the reasons why World War I is often considered the most influential event of the 20th century. Please join Pioneer in honoring Veterans and Armistice Day, as we celebrate our nation’s shared past. Op-ed: On Veterans Day, Learning from ‘Black Jack’ Pershing by Jamie Gass “There’s no ‘glory’ in killing. There’s no ‘glory’ in maiming men,” said American six-star General John “Black Jack” Pershing, upon his 1924 retirement. “There are the glorious dead, but they would be more glorious […]

Introducing the Newest Members of Pioneer Institute’s Board of Directors

Pioneer Institute is thrilled to introduce five new members of our Board of Directors. At our annual meeting last week, the Institute welcomed leaders with backgrounds in law, finance, real estate, and manufacturing, who are enthusiastic supporters of Pioneer’s mission to improve the quality of life in Massachusetts through civil discourse and practical policy solutions. Stephen Fantone, Chairman of Pioneer’s Board, noted, “Given the deep experience of these new board members, I am confident that their leadership, together with our current board members, will continue to energize and propel the great work we do for citizens of the Commonwealth and the broader community.” Read the full biographies for all of the new members of Pioneer Institute’s Board of Directors below. […]

Study Finds MassHealth’s Enhanced Eligibility Verification Saves $250 Million a Year

Reforms fixed MassHealth’s $1.2 billion eligibility crisis, freed up money to be redirected to needy recipients BOSTON – Enhanced eligibility verification allowed MassHealth, the Commonwealth’s Medicaid program, to save significant resources that could be redirected to the care of truly needy Medicaid recipients, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute. “MassHealth’s success at digging out of an eligibility crisis that cost Massachusetts at least $658 million, according to the Commonwealth’s Health Policy Commission, holds important Medicaid eligibility lessons for other states,” said Dr. William J. Oliver, author of “MassHealth Protecting Medicaid Resources for the Most Vulnerable: How Massachusetts Saved Hundreds of Millions through Enhanced Eligibility Verification.” After the failure of initial efforts to comply with Affordable Care Act rules […]

New Book on Massachusetts Charter Public Schools Touts Record of Achievement, Minimal Impact on District Finances

Recommendations Include Promoting Innovation, Removing Limits on Growth Read coverage in The 74 Million: “Author of ‘The Fight for the Best Charter Public Schools in the Nation’ Talks Confronting Hard Truths About Growing Massachusetts Charters” and “Book Excerpt: Former Massachusetts Gov. Weld & State Sen. Birmingham on Lessons Learned From the Fight Over America’s Best Charter Schools” Read Cara Candal’s op-ed in EducationNext: “The Fight for the Best Charter Schools in the Country: What Massachusetts Got Right and Wrong” BOSTON, MA – October 16, 2018 – Massachusetts has the best-performing charter public schools in the country, but the sector is also among the nation’s slowest growing, hampered by state laws and regulations that limit their expansion and inhibit new models from […]

Setting a High Bar at Alma del Mar

Alma del Mar Charter School in New Bedford, MA, is fighting for the chance to serve more students. It has applied to open two more K-8 schools that would educate an additional 1,188 students over the next five years. Alma del Mar students outperform their district peers on MCAS, and often score higher than the surrounding suburbs. In some areas they are even among the highest-performing public schools in Massachusetts. The school has relatively low attrition and suspension rates; and 500 students on its waitlist. Alma deserves the right to enroll more students! Read this op-ed in Commonwealth magazine and watch this video to learn more:

Study Finds Declining Student Achievement and Increased Harm to School Choice Since Common Core

Read coverage of this report in The Daily Caller, Breitbart News, and The Federalist. Curriculum centralization has failed to improve international competitiveness—it’s time to re-think curriculum standards-based reform BOSTON – While U.S. academic performance has declined since the broad implementation of Common Core, school choice programs are increasingly hamstrung by regulations that require private schools to adopt a single curriculum standards-based test as a condition for receiving public money, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute. “When states mandate a particular curriculum standards-based test, private schools are essentially required to adopt the curriculum content and pedagogy on which the test is based if they want to increase the probability that that their students are successful,” said Theodor Rebarber, […]

Pioneer Institute Awards Gala to Highlight Proposals to Address Student Debt Crisis & Promote Job Training

Speakers Include John Sexton, NYU President Emeritus; Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker Contact Micaela Dawson, 617-723-2277 ext. 203 or mdawson@pioneerinstitute.org BOSTON – Programs that help address the student debt crisis and America’s growing skills mismatch will be highlighted at Pioneer Institute’s 27th annual Better Government Competition Awards Gala on Monday, September 24th at the Seaport Hotel in Boston. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker will provide opening remarks and John Sexton, President Emeritus of New York University, will deliver the keynote. Dr. Sexton led New York University for over a decade, retiring in 2015. He is the Benjamin F. Butler Professor of Law and Dean Emeritus of the NYU School of Law. He received the TIAA-CREF Hesburgh Award for Leadership Excellence for his […]