Entries by Editorial Staff

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 […]

New Study Warns of Emergence of Two-Tiered Public Education System in Massachusetts

Contact Jamie Gass, 617-723-2277 ext. 210 or jgass@pioneerinstitute.org Overall 4th-grade reading and 8th-grade math scores flat, but percentage scoring in top category continues to rise BOSTON – A review of the performance of Massachusetts students on National Assessment of Academic Progress 4th-grade reading and 8th-grade math tests shows that overall improvement has stalled in the last decade, but the percentage of students scoring in the top category has steadily increased, according to a new policy brief published by Pioneer Institute. Fourth-grade reading and 8th-grade math scores were chosen because they have been shown to be the most predictive of students’ future academic success. “The results suggest the emergence of an inequitable public education system in the Commonwealth,” said Michael Sentance, […]

Op-ed: Mass. has to return to its high standards for education

By Thomas F. Birmingham and William F. Weld   JULY 05, 2018 Its 25th anniversary is an appropriate time to reflect on the success of Massachusetts’ 1993 Education Reform Act. Yet instead of rededicating ourselves to all the work still to be done, the Commonwealth seems to be turning away from the core principles of an approach that brought unprecedented success. In the early 1990s, Massachusetts’ broken educational standards and financing system were in urgent need of reform. Wide funding disparities existed between wealthy suburban districts and poor urban and rural ones. Due to the misguided practice of social promotion, students frequently graduated from high school without the academic preparation to succeed in college or the workplace. Parents who desperately sought alternatives […]

Inspired by America’s past, facing future challenges

As we celebrate America’s birth, we are reminded that this is a nation built on ideas, but powered by individuals – motivated by the pursuit of happiness, drawing on deep wells of courage, hard work, and optimism – who overcame challenges to achieve superhuman feats. We here in Massachusetts hold a special place in this country’s origin story – it was here where patriots first met and engaged in public debate. They challenged the status quo and helped form and inform the new hopeful American identity then taking shape. Pioneer Institute embraces that spirit every day, stimulating public discourse and driving rational civic engagement, always looking to make our Commonwealth an exemplar to other states and a place where individuals […]

Public Statement: Janus v. AFSCME Decision

Pioneer Institute applauds the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion in Janus v. AFSCME, a case with significant implications for Massachusetts in which the Court held that public employees who choose not to join a union cannot be compelled to pay the union an “agency fee” to cover the cost of contract negotiations and workplace grievance procedures. Pioneer believes that the constitutional guarantee of freedom of association means that just as union membership should never be banned, no one should ever be compelled to contribute to an organization with which s/he does not agree. The ruling will have significant impact in Massachusetts, where 18 of the 20 political action committees that contributed the most to candidates for state and county offices were […]

Study: No Longer A City On A Hill: Massachusetts Degrades Its K–12 History Standards

The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education should reject a proposed rewrite of the Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Framework in its entirety and immediately restore the state’s 2003 framework, considered among the strongest in the country, according to a new research paper titled, No Longer a City on a Hill: Massachusetts Degrades Its K-12 History Standards, published by Pioneer Institute. “The 2018 revision fails to provide effective history education. It must be replaced with a framework that requires much of students but offers them, in return, a share of our common treasure,” wrote the paper’s authors, David Randall, director of research at the National Association of Scholars; Will Fitzhugh, founder of the The Concord Review, and Jane Robbins, […]

Public Statement: SJC Decision on Prop 80

Pioneer Institute and its public-interest law initiative, PioneerLegal, applaud the decision of Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) in Christopher Anderson et al. v. Maura Healey. The SJC upheld decades of precedent in finding that Proposition 80, a ballot initiative that would have instituted a graduated income tax in Massachusetts, violates the “relatedness” provisions of state constitution, thereby precluding voters from expressing a unified statement on public policy. The Institute, through PioneerLegal, filed an amicus brief with the SJC in support of the plaintiffs before the Court heard oral arguments in February.  The Tax Foundation also signed onto the brief. Pioneer research looked into key legal issues and the negative economic impact that would have resulted from adoption of the ballot […]

Poll: Parents, Teachers, Legislators Support Reinstating Passage of U.S. History MCAS Test as High School Graduation Requirement

Strong majorities of parents, history and social studies teachers, and legislators in Massachusetts support restoring passage of a U.S. history MCAS test as a high school graduation requirement, according to a new poll of the three groups commissioned by Pioneer Institute. “Support for the U.S. history graduation requirement has remained strong despite the anti-testing backlash we’ve seen in recent years,” said David Paleologos, president of DAPA Research, who conducted the poll. Strong majorities of parents and teachers, and a plurality of legislators also opposed changing the Commonwealth’s U.S. history education standards, which are considered to be among the nation’s finest. Parents were the most in favor of restoring the U.S. history graduation requirement, with 68 percent either strongly or somewhat […]

Policy Brief: UMass Has a Spending Problem

Author: Greg Sullivan Date: 6/6/2018 Pioneer’s Director of Research, Greg Sullivan, releases a follow-up policy brief to address the source of UMass’ financial woes. The University of Massachusetts claims admissions policies that favor out-of-state students over in-state residents are required as a result of insufficient state funding growth, but the data tell a different story.     Related Posts

Public Statement: Admission Bias Against Massachusetts Residents

Freshman admission to the University of Massachusetts’ flagship Amherst campus is more competitive for the Commonwealth’s students than for out-of-state applicants, as reported in Pioneer Institute’s study, “Differentiating Admissions Standards at UMass-Amherst to Meet Out-of-State Enrollment Targets.” For instance, in the fall of 2016, the average combined SAT scores of accepted, in-state, first-time degree-seeking Massachusetts students were 23 points higher than the average of similar students accepted from out-of-state. The numbers imply that Massachusetts residents are held to a higher admissions standard. The pattern of accepting out-of-state students with lesser academic credentials than in-state students has been consistent since at least 2010, with respect to both combined SAT scores and high school grade point averages. Solutions There are solutions to […]

Study: UMass Amherst Admissions Standards Now Higher for MA Students than Non-Residents

Freshman admission to the University of Massachusetts’ flagship Amherst campus is more competitive for the Commonwealth’s students than for out-of-state applicants, who pay more to attend, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute. “The central mission of the University of Massachusetts is to serve the state citizens whose taxes support increased appropriations to the system,” said Mary Connaughton, co-author of “Differentiating Admissions Standards at UMass-Amherst to Meet Out-of-State Enrollment Targets.”  “While the general belief has been that non-resident student help augment intellectual rigor on campus, that benefit is in question if admissions standards, on average, are lower rather than higher for those students.” UMass admissions standards rose significantly for all students between 2004 and 2017, but especially for […]