In response to a collapse in MBTA service in the winter of 2015, the newly formed Fiscal and Management Control Board (FMCB) set the authority on a course of bold reforms. The COVID-19 pandemic is once again presenting new and significant challenges to T leadership that require a rethinking of how service is delivered to stave off painful service cuts.
About Jim Stergios
Jim Stergios is Executive Director of Pioneer Institute, a Boston-based think tank founded in 1988. Prior to joining Pioneer, Jim was Chief of Staff and Undersecretary for Policy in the Commonwealth's Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, where he drove efforts on water policy, regulatory and permit reform, and urban revitalization. His prior experience includes founding and managing a business, teaching at the university level, and serving as headmaster at a preparatory school. He holds a doctoral degree in Political Science from Boston University. Jim has been interviewed on the BBC and MSNBC, and has appeared regularly on local television and radio news broadcasts, including Chronicle, WBZ, WHDH, WCVB, NECN, Fox 25, WGBH TV and radio, WBUR’s Radio Boston, WBZ’s Nightside with Dan Rea, WRKO’s Tom & Todd Show and Pundit Review. In addition to writing regular commentary as Boston.com’s education blogger, Jim’s opinion pieces have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, The Weekly Standard, The Washington Times, The Daily Caller, and regional newspapers throughout New England. He has been quoted in hundreds of news outlets across the country, including in The New York Times, The Economist, and The Washington Post, and speaks at national policy conferences.
Entries by Jim Stergios
A Message from Pioneer Institute Executive Director Jim Stergios: With the close of Pioneer Institute’s 2020 fiscal year on September 30th, I want to thank you. This has been an unprecedented year for the Institute in terms of our ability to improve the lives of citizens in Massachusetts and beyond.
At the outset of the pandemic, limited knowledge and the need to mitigate risk understandably led to political overreach. At this point in the disaster response, though, we are far better at distinguishing fact from fiction and policies that have worked from those that have not.
Even in a time of painful divisions in our country, there is little doubt among people of good faith that what Derek Chauvin and three other former Minneapolis police officers did to George Floyd was criminal. If they are indeed convicted of a felony, how is it that the former officers could very well be immune from civil liability?
Read Pioneer Institute’s Public Statement from Executive Director Jim Stergios on the need to address police brutality, racism, and economic inequality.
This op-ed appeared in The Boston Globe on March 31, 2020. State and local officials must remove obstacles to digital learning. By Jim Stergios Massachusetts families shut in due to the coronavirus pandemic feel unsettled. The fears and unknowns around the lethality of the virus, the daily discussions of potential treatments, income and job loss, and the fate of loved ones, especially those over 65 with underlying medical conditions, spark intense anxiety. On health care policy, the Legislature and the governor have made many prudent moves, such as the broad expansion of telehealth options to ensure that many more patients get high-quality medical care. Though not as intense a topic in the public conversation, the frustration felt in households with school-aged children at […]
Message from Jim Stergios sharing important steps and work we at Pioneer will be undertaking during the COVID-19 pandemic, to continue to provide quality programming, research, videos, podcasts, and social media content, and serve as a resource for media and the public, with a focus on issues such as telecommuting and telemedicine, online learning and homeschooling options, and innovation in the life sciences.
A new policy brief by Pioneer Institute Executive Director Jim Stergios calls on the Massachusetts Legislature to extend the life of the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board beyond the current fiscal year ending on June 30, and adjust it to address the agency’s new challenges.
By Jim Stergios & Conrad Crawford Published in The Boston Globe on December 6, 2019 Earlier this year, INRIX, a mobility analytics firm, announced that Greater Boston now has the nation’s worst rush hour traffic. Tell us something we don’t know. It’s been years since the informal New England salutation of choice was to commiserate about the weather. Standing in line waiting for a coffee, and the subject on everyone’s lips is the time it takes to get in and around Boston. Greater Boston stands out in another way: It is the only one of the 10 largest metropolitan areas in the country that does not use time-of-day pricing on its toll roads. The Globe’s Shirley Leung has reported that MassDOT wants to conduct a test of […]
By Jim Stergios August 2, 2019 This spring, The New York Times reported that of the 4,800 students admitted to New York’s nine exam schools, a mere 190, or 4 percent, were African-American. At Manhattan’s acclaimed Stuyvesant High School, just seven black students were among the 895 admitted. Less than 1 percent of the school’s total enrollees are black. Boston earns no bragging rights by beating the thoroughly broken New York City school system at equity of access to elite exam schools. But neither do the Boston Public Schools deserve the recent drubbing they are getting from the NAACP and Lawyers for Civil Rights, who wrote a stern letter to the city condemning the “discriminatory impact” of the schools’ admissions […]
This op-ed appeared on WGBH News. You’d be right to shake your head at how the press hyperventilated about the “thousands of customers” that were going to be inconvenienced by the so-called “Uber strike.” If you live in the real world, you would, in fact, be hard pressed to find a single customer whose wait was related to the anemic driver participation in the action. The day-after media estimates clocked in at 25 protesters in London, 25 in Los Angeles, a couple of hundred in San Francisco (Uber’s headquarters), and 50 in New York City. It’s not as if there is no reason for drivers to register their displeasure. While Uber remains a source of needed supplemental income for its […]
The Hill BY JIM STERGIOS AND CHARLES CHIEPPO, OPINION CONTRIBUTORS — 04/12/19 10:35 AM EDT A patient repeatedly tries to find out the price for a medical procedure. The hospital refuses, but eventually quotes the price as $5,500. But one health insurer’s website includes a page with price guidelines for various procedures. Seeing that the expected cost for the test he was to undergo was $550, the patient pulled off his identification bracelet and left the hospital. What makes this story stand out is that the patient was U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar. If even someone who’s so knowledgeable about the health care system struggles to gain access to price information, then discovers a hospital is charging 10 times the […]
The Baker administration and the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education (BHE) should slow down a fast-tracked proposal to protect students from sudden, unexpected college closings such as what occurred at Mt. Ida College, and use the time to rethink its proposal from top to bottom.
These would be the best of times for Boston public charter schools were education policy decisions driven by evidence. Boston’s charters are nationwide models and uniquely successful at closing pernicious achievement gaps. But in education politics, where “momentum” is too often the benchmark, charter skeptics are crowing about the loss of a ballot initiative to expand school choice for disadvantaged students, unionization of three charters, and a recent SJC decision affirming a lower court’s dismissal of a challenge to the state cap on charter schools. A close look at the SJC’s decision should keep even the most ardent charter haters from crowing. Twenty-five years ago, in a case known as McDuffy, the state’s highest court declared that the Massachusetts Constitution requires […]
Read this full op-ed on WGBH News. In the midst of the 2016 ballot initiative campaign about whether to raise the state cap on charter schools, opponents questioned whether charters even are public schools. It now appears that the answer to the public school question turns on whether a school’s teachers are unionized. When teachers at two City on a Hill charter schools in Boston chose to join the Boston Teachers Union, BTU President Jessica Tang said that creating successful learning experiences for students “means improving the working conditions of all educators, including those working at charter schools funded by taxpayer dollars.” The City on a Hill story, quickly followed by Conservatory Lab Charter School’s announcement that it hopes to become part of the Boston […]
In downtown Boston Monday there was a rally of a few hundred public union members, with a speaker roster that included U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey, among many other elected officials. The reason was that the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) was hearing oral arguments on the Janus v. AFSCME case. The plaintiff in the case, Mark Janus, is a state child-support specialist in Illinois who had opted not to join the state employees’ union – AFSCME. He has asked SCOTUS to overturn a precedent from a 1977 case that allows public employee unions to compel non-members working in the public sector to pay union ‘agency fees’ against their wishes. Janus argues that compelling non-union members to pay union dues constitutes forced speech in violation […]
Jim Stergios, on behalf of the Pioneer Institute, provides public testimony on health care cost containment and reform. Download Report:
There is a bill before the Massachusetts Legislature seeking to expand access to dental care through the creation of a mid-level provider position, commonly known as a dental therapist.
THE MBTA’S BUDGET SHORTFALL, once pegged at $335 million for the current fiscal year, is now down to $30 million. That’s good news for riders, taxpayers, employers, and legislators—really everyone except the T’s unions. Much of the savings is the result of a three-year exemption from the Commonwealth’s anti-privatization law that the authority was granted in the wake of its 2015 winter implosion. In June the MBTA unions got even worse news when an arbitrator ruled against them on a grievance they brought under Section 13(c) of the federal Urban Mass Transit Act. For years, the T unions have used 13(c) as a “get out of jail free” card when faced with even the most modest reform proposal. Read more at […]
State leaders need to work together to tackle Medicaid challenge MASSACHUSETTS HAS A unique culture when it comes to health care. Over the last quarter century, we have seen the business, provider, payer, consumer, and academic sectors come together to advance reforms aimed at expanding coverage and containing the cost of care. Whether it was repeal of hospital rate-setting and passing insurance reforms in the 1990s, or the 2006 the passage of Romneycare, or major cost control legislation enacted in 2010 and 2012, stakeholders across the board have had a seat at the table. Consensus may not be the right goal in all cases, but given the way it has careened from one extreme to the other on health care in […]
By Jim Stergios JUNE 02, 2017 The MBTA has hundreds of thousands of daily riders and 6,000 employees. You would think that the interests of the people consuming 1.3 million daily rides might matter more than those of 6,000 public employees. Not so in the Massachusetts Senate, which used a voice vote to undo a key element of the 2015 reform package that has allowed the Fiscal and Management Control Board to cut the MBTA’s deficit and improve service. The budget amendment senators adopted would dramatically limit the T’s exemption from a state law that effectively bars privatization. Competitive contracting is a powerful tool to save money and improve service. Sometimes those goals can be achieved without the exemption […]
Much has been accomplished in the past 20 months. The draft strategic plan, however, correctly notes that the MBTA is still nowhere near where the riding public needs it to be. Pioneer Institute believes that getting there will require maintaining the same kind of discipline and urgency that the Control Board has made possible, but over a longer and more explicitly defined period.
By Cheryl Brown Henderson and Jim Stergios The Boston Globe | MARCH 08, 2017 THE 50TH anniversary of the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (Metco), which allows about 3,300 Boston and Springfield students to attend school in surrounding districts, provides a good opportunity to take stock of the program and, in doing so, compare it with the intent of the landmark 1954 United States Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education. In its opinion, the court wrote that education is the “most important function of state and local governments. . . . It is doubtful that any child can be reasonably expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity […]
Submitted to the Special Commission on Provider Price Variation on January 31, 2017
By Jim Stergios and Charles Chieppo Read this op-ed online at USA Today. Education nominee could improve on past secretaries by backing state and local innovation. Every administration since President George H.W. Bush’s has pinned its hopes of transforming American K-12 education on several thousand bureaucrats in the Lyndon B. Johnson Building in Washington, D.C. and the Beltway lobbyists perched on their doorstep. Betsy DeVos, president-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Education Department, needs a different plan. Given that the federal government contributes approximately 10% of the total spending in the nation’s sprawling, decentralized landscape of 100,000 public K-12 schools, it is neither plausible nor desirable that an Education secretary chase the chimera of a transformational national education policy. Arne Duncan’s seven years as President Obama’s secretary of Education were just the latest iteration […]
Jim Stergios shares Pioneer Institute’s perspective on the Strategic Plan being developed by the Fiscal and Management Control Board. Please allow me to make a few observations on “Strategic Planning Update, September 26, 2016,” the 23-page slide deck that has been made publicly available.
Fred Thorne, a longtime Pioneer Board Director and major contributor to the Institute, died this weekend. Fred was someone that Pioneer’s founder, Pete Peters, thought the world of — and for good reason. He was a man of deep intelligence, thoughtful judgment, class, and kindness. Roger Perry and I had a chance to sit with Fred two weeks ago; we spent part of a beautiful summer morning sitting on his porch overlooking the port in Manchester-by-the-Sea. At the time, Fred’s liver was no longer functional, but his spirit was far from broken. He was still holding weekly investor meetings, and had committed to two appointments after our morning visit. Fred was a founding force at Pioneer, and always cognizant of […]
As University of Massachusetts President Marty Meehan considers raising tuitions yet again, his institution is at a crossroads. On the one hand, the University of Massachusetts has many achievements of which to be proud. Under the leadership of Meehan and his predecessors over a quarter century, the average grade point average of entering UMass Amherst freshmen shot up from around 2.9 to 3.8. In just the last five years, the flagship Amherst campus rose more than 20 spots in U.S. News & World Report rankings. While impressive, the strategies that produced such advances have compromised the university’s financial health and its mission of serving Massachusetts students. Read the rest of this op-ed in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Salem News, […]
Published in The Boston Globe, JUNE 01, 2016 AFTER NEARLY a decade of opposition, Boston may be on the verge of getting its first for-profit walk-in clinic. Although it’s not yet official, it appears the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals has approved an urgent-care center application in West Roxbury. Almost 3,000 “convenience” clinics in 41 states have served 10 million people. They fall into two categories — retail and urgent-care clinics. The former are typically staffed by nurse practitioners, the latter by a doctor. Read more in The Boston Globe…
This report illustrates that state policy and legislative recommendations requiring pharmaceutical companies to disclose proprietary information would discourage the development of new innovative medicines, lead to higher healthcare costs over the long term, and potentially damage a big driver of Massachusetts’ business economy.