Entries by Editorial Staff

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 […]

Join us on Oct. 16 for a Book Release Event: “The Fight for the Best Charter Public Schools in the Nation”

Join us for a lively discussion of Pioneer Institute’s new book, The Fight for the Best Charter Public Schools in the Nation, featuring author Dr. Cara Stillings Candal, former Massachusetts Governor William Weld, former state Senate President Tom Birmingham, and a panel of distinguished education experts who will explore how we can reinvigorate the public dialogue about these very effective schools. Register Now

Video Highlights Long-Running Journal that Publishes History Essays by High School Students

BOSTON – A new video highlights the work of Will Fitzhugh, who for years has operated The Concord Review, a journal that publishes history essays by secondary students from across the country and around the globe. “Will Fitzhugh has dedicated his career to disseminating the superb work of high school students to their peers and the world,” said Jamie Gass, who directs Pioneer Institute’s Center for School Reform and is also a member of The Concord Review board. “His goal is to inspire as many students as possible by putting excellent history writing in front of them.” In well over 100 issues since 1987, the Review has thus far published nearly 1,300 essays by students from 45 states and 40 foreign […]

Pioneer Institute Announces Winner of 27th Annual Better Government Competition

NYU President Emeritus, Massachusetts Governor to Headline Awards Gala BOSTON – Pioneer Institute is pleased to announce that Purdue University’s “Back a Boiler” program is the winner of the 27th annual Better Government Competition. This year, the topic was making higher education and career training options affordable and effective. The competition received over 80 entries from think tanks, universities, job training programs, nonprofits, and state government agencies across the nation. The winner, four runners up, and four special recognition recipients will be honored at the Better Government Competition Awards Gala on September 24th at the Seaport Hotel in Boston. The Keynote Speaker is John Sexton, President Emeritus of New York University, and the Benjamin F. Butler Professor of Law and […]

Kudos To CHIA On Major Step Toward Greater Healthcare Price Transparency

Pioneer applauds the Center for Health Information and Analysis (CHIA) on its recent release of all data behind its consumer facing CompareCare pricing tool for Massachusetts consumers. The CHIA CompareCare tool contains payer- provider specific data for 295 common procedures. To access each payer-provider-procedure, consumers have to search the CHIA tool. For several years, Pioneer, along with other transparency advocates, has argued for more wholesale release of the underlying claims data collected by CHIA. Pioneer has urged the legislature and CHIA to break new ground and release such data in wholesale form so that researchers, policy makers, employers and consumers can benefit. As a state agency, CHIA collects data on fee-for-service amounts individual insurers pay to each commercial provider in the state for […]

Public Statement: The State Legislature’s Answer to the Janus Decision: The Employee Coercion & Intimidation Act

Pioneer has previously referred to a “Tammany Hall-like nexus” between organized labor and Massachusetts elected officials. Nothing proves that statement more than the Legislature’s attempt to negate the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent Janus decision, in which the Court found that public employees cannot be forced to pay fees to unions they don’t want to be members of and with which they don’t agree. The amendments to an economic development bill, filed by Senators Nick Collins and Joe Boncore, would gut Massachusetts labor relations law, which currently prohibits public employers from discriminating against those who are not union members in hiring, tenure, or any term or condition of employment, in order to encourage or discourage membership in any union. […]

Report Recommends Alternatives to Drug Pricing Transparency Legislation

Value-based reimbursement, focus on middlemen in drug distribution system more likely to reduce prices, provide consumers with valuable information BOSTON – As Massachusetts lawmakers consider healthcare price transparency legislation, a new Pioneer Institute study finds that most new drug pricing transparency laws do not lower consumer out-of-pocket costs, and that expensive and onerous compliance rules would likely put upward pressure on prices. In Will New England See Lower Prices from Drug Pricing Transparency Legislation? report author William Smith, a Pioneer visiting research fellow, reviews recent New England legislative attempts to reduce costs by requiring the disclosure of wholesale drug prices and other information about industry pricing practices. The report argues that most of these new laws will not reduce consumer […]

Survey Shows Wide Variation in Both Overall Cost of Medical Procedure and Amount Paid by Consumers

Making all-payer claims data public could put downward pressure on high-cost providers, reduce overall healthcare costs   BOSTON – Data from the Massachusetts Center for Health Information and Analysis (CHIA) show wide variations in the prices agreed to between individual insurers and providers, the portion paid by insurers and the amount that is consumers’ responsibility to pay, according to a new policy brief published by Pioneer Institute. In “Need an MRI?  In Worcester, Patients Pay Less for More,” author Scott Haller looks, by county, at various costs associated with a simple MRI of the knee.  The data in the brief come from CHIA’s all-payer claims database (APCD), which warehouses medical claims data across the Commonwealth. “Through CHIA, the state collects data […]

Study: Boston-Area Communities Should Loosen Restrictions for Accessory Dwelling Units

Additional units could help ease housing shortage BOSTON—A review of 100 cities and towns around (but not including) Boston finds that loosening local zoning laws to allow for the development of more accessory dwelling units (ADUs) would help ease the region’s housing shortage without creating any significant problems, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute in partnership with the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance. Accessory dwelling units are apartments within or behind owner-occupied single-family houses that appear to be single-family as opposed to two-family homes. Thirty-seven of the 100 Boston-area communities allow ADUs and permit them to be rented out, though typically with significant restrictions.  Another 31 allow them temporarily for occupancy by relatives of the homeowner or a […]