Entries by Editorial Staff

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 […]

Study: Methodology of Noted “Millionaire’s Tax” Researcher Excludes Vast Majority of Millionaires

The work of a Stanford University Professor whose research has formed the foundation of efforts, such as one scheduled to appear on the Massachusetts ballot in November, to impose surtaxes on high earners is flawed because it excludes the vast majority of millionaires, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute. Professor Cristobal Young’s research has found that no more than 2.4 percent of U.S.-based millionaires changed their state of residency in any given year.  But his methodology, which he describes as “people who earned $1 million or more in year t and changed their state of residency between year t and t+1,” captures just a small fraction of U.S. millionaires. The ballot measure, known as Proposition 80, would […]

Study Finds MA Inter-District School Choice Program a Success, but Should Be Updated

Policy makers should raise tuition rate, cap on program enrollment BOSTON – With little fanfare or controversy, Massachusetts’ inter-district school choice program has allowed students to access better schools and spurred competition between districts, but the 27-year-old choice law should be updated to ensure the program’s continuing success, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute. “By providing a way for school districts to fill empty seats and allowing them to have sufficient enrollment to sustain niche programs, inter-district choice is a vehicle for delivering better and more efficient K-12 public education,” said Jamie Gass, director of Pioneer’s Center for School Reform. In Inter-district School Choice in Massachusetts, author Roger Hatch writes that districts choosing to accept choice students […]

Time to End MA State Legislature’s Exemption from Public Records Law

The purpose of transparency laws is to promote more effective, accountable and responsive government. Engaged citizens are essential for our form of government to thrive over the long-term. According to the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, “the founding fathers of our nation strove to develop an open government formed on the principles of democracy and public participation. An informed citizen is better equipped to participate in the process.” Yet, despite this paramount need for the long-term health of the Commonwealth, our transparency laws remain deeply flawed. The Public Records Law expressly states that the law “shall not apply to the records of the general court” Meaning the state legislature “exempted” itself from a most important law. Although the Supreme […]

Study: MA Private & Religious School Students Denied Federally Funded Special Education Services

Despite federal laws to the contrary, state education agency claims providing services at private schools would violate amendments to state constitution BOSTON – Over the past dozen years, thousands of private and religious school students in Massachusetts have been denied hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of special education services to which they are entitled under federal law. According to No IDEA: How Massachusetts Blocks Federal Special Education Funding for Private and Religious School Students, a new study published by Pioneer Institute, this denial is due to the non-compliance of the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) with the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Each year, the federal government allocates billions of dollars to the states […]

MA Health Insurers Have Made Good Progress in Price Transparency, But Significant Work Remains

Read press coverage of this report in the Boston Business Journal and State House News Service. Tools are more user friendly and cover growing number of procedures, but still used by just a small fraction of potential market BOSTON – A Pioneer Institute study finds some significant improvements in the online cost estimator tools created by Massachusetts’ three largest health insurers, but there is much still to be done for the carriers to maximize the opportunity price transparency represents. Online cost estimator tools give consumers/plan members online information about a range of information for outpatient and many inpatient procedures. These tools display the amount that has to be paid by consumers to any particular provider, how much the plan pays the […]

Public Statement: Pioneer Institute Questions UMass Amherst’s Purchase of Mt. Ida Campus

Between September 2015 and the fall of 2017, Pioneer Institute released a series of reports on the University of Massachusetts that chronicled rising fees and tuition, a flood of new administrative hires, the high salaries of top university brass, the university’s out-of-control capital plans, shaky financial planning premised on recruiting an ever-increasing number of out-of-state students, and its enormous and growing debt load. Political leaders should take pride in the university system’s hard-won improvements over the last two decades, but they should not ignore the mounting challenges UMass is facing and the reputation that it has earned for empire building.  There is a huge bill coming due; one that is not necessary to the future stewardship of a high-quality public […]

Press Release: Birmingham Touts 1993 Ed Reform Act’s Success, Expresses Concerns about Recent Policies

BOSTON – Massachusetts Education Reform Act co-author and former Senate President Tom Birmingham praised the historic success that has been achieved since the law was enacted in 1993, but expressed concern that the Commonwealth is veering away from basic principles of the law that produced that success at a State House event marking the 25th anniversary of the Education Reform Act. Describing the day the bill was signed, Birmingham, now the Distinguished Senior Fellow in Education at Pioneer Institute, said “If you had told me that over 90 percent of our students would pass MCAS and that we would have 13 consecutive years of improvement on SAT scores, or that our students would rank first in the nation in every […]

Time to End Legislative Exemptions from Public Records & Open Meeting Laws

Under Massachusetts law, the state Legislature is not considered a “public body” in the traditional sense, and therefore enjoys exemptions from open meeting and public records laws. Pioneer Institute believes this is unconstitutional. The state constitution says the Legislature should be accountable to citizens “at all times.” The laws that apply to municipalities and the rest of state government should also apply to the Legislature. The 2016 public records reform law failed to adequately address this exemption but did establish a special legislative commission to look into the issue further. The commission’s report was supposed to be submitted to the House and Senate Clerks’ Offices by December 30, 2017. Unfortunately, the deadline was quietly extended to December 1, 2018. In February of 2018, […]

Draft History and Social Studies Frameworks Continue Trend Toward Dumbing Down Public School Content

Weaker ELA and math standards have already produced declines in student achievement BOSTON – The draft of the Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Frameworks that was released for public comment in January would follow in the footsteps of recently adopted English, math, and science standards by representing a decline in academic quality, content, and coherence compared to their predecessors, according to comments on the draft published by Pioneer Institute. “The watering down of the content children learn in public schools continues,” said Dr. David Randall, director of research for the National Association of Scholars and co-author of 2018 Proposed Revisions to Massachusetts History and Social Studies Frameworks. “This time it comes in the form of eviscerating the 2003 Frameworks […]

Inadequate Inflation Adjustment Factor Will Subject Increasing Numbers of People to So-Called “Millionaires” Tax

Would take particular toll on those relying on home value appreciation to fund retirement BOSTON – The tax hike on those with annual taxable incomes of $1 million or more that would result from a proposed amendment to the state constitution scheduled to appear on the Commonwealth’s November ballot will likely ensnare an ever-increasing number of taxpayers because the index used to adjust the million-dollar threshold has historically grown at a far slower rate than both the taxable income of Massachusetts taxpayers and increases in state home values, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute. “Those who are counting on decades of appreciation in the value of their homes in particular to fund retirement will be in for […]

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, let’s end bigoted laws that block school choice

This St. Patrick’s Day, join us in calling for an end to bigoted, 19th-century anti-Irish and anti-Catholic legal barriers that block access to better schools for hundreds of thousands of underprivileged children. “Big Sacrifices, Big Dreams: Ending America’s Bigoted Education Laws,” a Pioneer Institute documentary production, seeks to raise public awareness about these constitutional amendments that deprive the neediest children in 38 states of the opportunity to attend private or parochial schools. Here in Massachusetts, the Anti-Aid or “Know-Nothing” amendments prevent more than 100,000 urban families with children in chronically underperforming districts from receiving scholarship vouchers and education tax credits that would open access to additional educational alternatives. Below, you can watch the film, which features a powerful message from […]